by JAKE NUTTING
For the second year in a row, the Tampa Bay Rowdies were handed their first defeat of the season by Louisville City FC. The defending USL Cup champions knocked the Rowdies off on Saturday afternoon, edging them out 1-0 at home thanks to a late goal from Oscar Jimenez.
Despite the attacking firepower on both sides, each had a tough time producing many quality scoring chances on the narrow field at Slugger Field. Louisville attempted 11 shots in the match and guided just three on frame, while the Rowdies fired off 10 but managed only two on target. That one extra shot on goal proved to be the difference.
Louisville earned its few scoring opportunities playing the ball quickly and direct up to forward Luke Spencer. In the 15th minute, Spencer slipped past the back line and collected a long ball into the final third before having his effort to the bottom right corner stymied by keeper Cody Mizell’s quick kick-save.
Spencer had another break into the final third six minutes before the break, this time poking the ball past Hunter Gorskie after the center back committed early to diving for a headed clearance at the top of the box. Mizell, though, read the play and raced off his line to thwart Spencer before he could get his shot off.
Tampa Bay came closest to breaking through in the first 15 or so minutes after the break. Sebastian Guenzatti grabbed the first shot on goal of the day with a blast from the right side of the box that keeper Gregory Ranjitsingh did just enough to parry away.
The Rowdies kept the pressure up during the stretch with a number of crosses in the box, but only managed to test Ranjitsingh one more time when David Najem attempted to find the bottom right corner in the 57th minute. Altogether, the Rowdies attempted 26 crosses to no avail. Louisville had just 8 crosses.
Louisville found its winner by exploiting a mismatch on the right side of Tampa Bay’s defense in the 69th minute. Midfielder Paolo DelPiccolo spotted forward Georgi Hristov attempting to mark Jimenez at the top of the box. DelPiccolo played a perfectly weighted through ball into the box and Jimenez easily lost Hristov before depositing the ball past a helpless Mizell.
Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell looked to find a way back into the match with three offensive substitutions. Jochen Graf swapped in for Guenzatti a minute before the goal, while Junior Flemmings and Joe Cole entered in the 75th and 80th minutes. However, none of the additions ended up bearing fruit and the Rowdies were blanked for the first time this year.
The Rowdies return to Al Lang next Saturday hoping to get back in the win column against Ottawa Fury FC.