FENTON, Mo. – Saint Louis FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies both maintained their undefeated starts to the season after a 1-1 draw at World Wide Technology Soccer Park on Saturday afternoon. Here are three takeaways from the contest:
CALM UNDER FIRE: After sustaining a lot of early pressure, the Tampa Bay Rowdies earned a point on the road as they maintained their composure despite going behind on the road. By settling into more possession-based game and finding success with pressure higher up the field, the Rowdies were able to carry momentum through the halftime break that eventually saw them find a deserved equalizer. The visitors might have needed a break as Sam Fink’s unlucky handball provided the opportunity with 15 minutes to go, but for the second time this season Sebastian Guenzatti was clinical from the penalty spot to reward the visitors for a well-played second-half performance that showed some real composure and character.
MISSING THE MIDDLE: Saint Louis was well on top in the opening half-hour and got rewarded when Lewis Hilton’s perfectly-placed free kick was turned home by Fink in the 26th minute, but the departure of Oscar Umar due to injury seemed to break the hosts out of some of their rhythm. The Ghanaian had completed 15 of 18 passes before departing, switching play well to get STLFC on the front foot, and after his departure the hosts had difficulty at times regaining its ability to transition through midfield. That allowed the Rowdies to not only get into a better rhythm themselves, but also saw Tampa Bay’s high pressure have more effect on taking the hosts out of their game until later in the contest as they looked for a late winner.
RIGHT IN THE PICTURE: After the starts both sides had made defensively this season this never felt like it would be a high-scoring contest, and the final numbers bore that out as each team finished with 11 shots overall and three shots on target. There were other chances to be had aside from the goals, the most notable Caleb Calvert’s shot off the post from a narrow angle early in the first half for STLFC and Brandon Allen’s close-range finish that went just wide for the Rowdies just before halftime, but overall the signs remain that both these teams are going to make life very difficult for opposing attacks throughout 2019 and as a result challenge for a high finish in the Eastern Conference.