Rowdies Notch Crucial Road Win Heading Into Extended Break

By JAKE NUTTING

Wednesday night’s match against the Harrisburg City Islanders was not the best of starts for the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

For the eighth time this year, they conceded first to fall into an early deficit on the road. However, a quick burst of productivity to close out the first half and a more disciplined second-half showing lifted them to a 3-2 win. It is just their second away win of the season.

“I’m absolutely delighted to get the three points, but overall I thought our performance was outstanding,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We’ve had a couple games on the road where we haven’t had the points return we deserved, but it all kind of came together tonight.”

The hosts were the better of the two sides in the early stages of the match. With the broadcast crew mentioning the fact that the City Islanders were scoreless in their last six matches approximately 50 times in the first half hour, it was only a matter of time before the Rowdies let them knock one in. They finally did so in the 31st minute, with Lee Nishanian rushing unchecked to the back post to smash home a corner kick delivery.

Tampa Bay’s response was swift and lethal. Five minutes after Harrisburg took the lead, the Rowdies persevered to ensure a corner kick sequence finished with the ball in the back of the net. After having his initial service sent back out, Marcel Schafer fired in another cross that found its way to the back post for Martin Paterson. From a tight angle, Paterson put an amazing header on frame that may or may not have been cleared off the line in time by Frederick Opoku. Whether Paterson’s attempt crossed the line was irrelevant as Justin Chavez took the rebound and dished it across goal for Georgi Hristov to volley into the back of the net.

Paterson would not be denied two minutes with a wondrous strike 22 yards out from goal. Running toward the box, the forward picked his head up and launched a strike that curled and dipped down into bottom far corner, giving keeper Brandon Miller no chance.

As hard as the Rowdies worked to gain the lead, they gave it away in an instant with a frustrating goal from nothing moments before the break. Pedro Ribeiro fired a hopeful 30-yard strike that changed direction after catching the foot of Ropapa Mensah and then caught Matt Pickens flat-footed.

Unlike last weekend’s loss in New York, the Rowdies came out of the break with more determination to get back into the match. They took charge with more sustained possession and prevented Harrisburg from testing Pickens much in the closing half.

Alex Morrell contributed to the winning goal with a nice run into the box that drew Jonathan Mendoza into a foul as Morrell was lining up his shot. Hristov stepped up and converted the penalty for his 10th goal of the season.

“It feels great to score twice, but most importantly we got the three points,” Hristov said. “It was a tough game for us … We came back strong in the second half. We had a good talk in the locker room at halftime and I’m glad we got the three points we deserved.”

The win stabilizes the Rowdies after a three-match winless streak before they head into an extended break. Due to Hurricane Irma, the team will head home to prepare for the storm instead of staying on the road to play Bethlehem Steel. The match against Bethlehem will now be played on September 27.

While the Rowdies currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference standings heading into the break, they could potentially find themselves lower on the table when they return to host the Charlotte Independence on September 23. They have plenty of opportunities to solidify a postseason position with six matches left on their schedule, but they’ll need to be rested and ready to go all out as all six will be played in a 20-day span.

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