By JEFF HERNDEN
On Thursday the Tampa Bay Rowdies traveled across I-4 for their second meeting with Orlando City B. Coming off an impressive attacking display against FC Cincinnati that came with changes in both formation and tactics, Head Coach Stuart Campbell chose to stick with the 4-3-3 formation and named an unchanged team.
While the formation and team remained the same on paper, the tactical execution was quite the opposite. Fans needed only to watch the first five minutes of the match to see how the rest of the game played. The attacking 4-3-3 turned in to an ultra-defensive 4-2-3-1, with Keith Savage and Marcel Schäfer sitting just in front of the back four and the midfield pairing rarely progressing beyond the halfway line. This change meant Joe Cole, Georgi Hristov and Alex Morrell were forced to drop deep to receive the ball. When they did drop, their only forward option was an isolated Martin Paterson.
Clearly Campbell’s tactics for this one were to sit back defensively and hit Orlando City B on the counter attack. In other words, play to ‘not lose’. As a result, the Rowdies produced only one shot on target — Paterson’s goal in the 21st minute. The goal came from a failed OCB clearance won by Savage, and a nice through ball from Cole to Paterson. From that point on, the Rowdies were all defense, with Paterson’s off target effort from outside the box by in the 53rd minute as the only other shot.
Defensively, the Rowdies were anchored well by center backs Neill Collins and Tamika Mkandawire. The entire back four played well for the entire match, allowing only two scoring chances in the second half. Those chances however came as a result of two major errors. The first chance in the 72nd minute resulted from a misplayed pass by keeper Matt Pickens, resulting in a shot into the side netting from OCB’s Hadji Barry. The only second scoirng chance was a penalty in the dying moments of added time following an ill-advised tackle from defender Darnell King.
Campbell stuck with this game plan throughout the entire match and only made substitutions when forced. Savage, Paterson and Cole all left with knocks. As a defender I appreciate solid defense and the Rowdies certainly have the players needed to grind out a hard-fought game on the road. However, it’s tough to defend without error for 90 minutes and rely on that to keep a clean sheet and earn three points. This being an important rivalry match after an impressive display against Cincinnati, Rowdies fans certainly hoped (and expected) Campbell would head to Orlando and go for three points to keep the momentum going into an important three-match homestand.
I can’t really fault the players for this one as they executed Campbell’s game plan nearly to perfection. Asking the players to be perfect defensively was what was disappointing and cost two important points (and perhaps a few questionable calls from the ref as well). All things considered, the Rowdies were unlucky to not come home with all three points, but almost equally lucky to escape with one.
Manager rating: 5/10 — Overall team rating: 6.5/10
Matt Pickens (GK): With the Rowdies defending staunchly in front of him, Pickens did not have much to do tonight. Can’t fault him on the penalty goal conceded and did not have a single save to make. The only knock on him was his bad giveaway in the 72nd minute which nearly led to an OCB goal. Player rating: 7/10
Zac Portillos (LB): Based on last-week’s display, Portillos deserved to keep his place in the starting XI. His performance in Orlando did not disappoint as he defended well all night. Player rating: 7/10
Neill Collins (CB): Another solid night for Collins. He kept his back line organized in the face of constant pressure. Player rating: 7/10
Tamika Mkandawire (CB): Standout defender of the night. Tam came up big with seven clearances and five interceptions and had a key block. Player rating: 8/10
Darnell King (RB): Have to come down on King for his poor decision to slide in the box that late in the game. Every defender knows that the striker will be desperate for contact in the box, and OCB’s Richie Laryea’s first touch put himself between King and the ball. King slid right in to the trap. Player rating: 6/10
Keith Savage (DM, Subbed off 60′ – Chavez): One of Savage’s few forays in to the offensive end won the Rowdies the turnover leading to Paterson’s goal. Excellent defensive display, though much of that defending should have been done around the half-line, rather than in our defensive end. Player rating: 6.5/10
Marcel Schäfer (DM): Spent most of the match sitting a few yards ahead of Collins and Tam. At times, he even filled in at center back himself. Handled what he was tasked with well, but the Rowdies can’t have one of their best passers stuck playing 30 and 40 yard passes all night. Player rating: 6.5/10
© Joe Cole (CM, Subbed off 79′ – Jones): A frustrating night for Cole. 25 of his 26 touches came in the midfield third, with his lone touch in the attacking third being his assist to Paterson. He spent the majority of his night keeping shape in the overall defensive performance, leaving him unable to create offensively. Player rating: 6.5/10
Georgi Hristov (LW): Same story as Cole. Zero shots from 28 touches and the majority of those coming in the midfield third. Did his job keeping shape, but not many offensive contributions. Player rating: 6.5/10
Alex Morrell (RW): Put in a good shift defensively and did what he could to contribute offensively, attacking on the dribble and providing three key passes. A bit more strength (though the ref could have whistled a foul) in the 94th minute would have prevented the counter leading to OCB’s penalty goal. Player rating: 7/10
Martin Paterson (F, Subbed off 65′ – Vingaard): 17 touches, two shots, one goal. That about sums up Paterson’s night. As expected, he brought energy when he could, but little service and support made for a difficult and frustrating night. Injury got him subbed early for the second match in a row. Player rating: 7/10
Justin Chavez (DM, Subbed on 60′ – Savage): Lone bright spot of the night was Chavez’s return from injury. Fits in well in the holding position and didn’t show any signs of rust despite two months out. Depending on Savage’s injury, could expect to see him start against the Battery. Player rating 7/10
Martin Vingaard (CM, subbed on 65′ – Paterson): Presumably brought on to provide more defensive cover on the wing. Provided an excellent flick on for what would have been the game-winner in the 98th minute, if not for Tam straying slightly off-side. Player rating: 6.5/10
Darwin Jones (F, subbed on 79′ – Cole): Considering his performances coming off the bench at center forward in the last two matches, Jones should have replaced Paterson in the 65′. Perhaps then we would have seen more runs like the one he made in the 92nd minute that arguably should have led to a red card for OCB’s Paul Clowes, which surely would have sealed the three points. Player rating: 7/10