The Tampa Bay Rowdies continued their undefeated start to the season with a third consecutive victory on the road against Atlanta United 2, while Birmingham Legion FC grabbed a stoppage-time equalizer against the Charlotte Independence and Loudoun United FC found the win column for the first time in 2020 as the New York Red Bulls II slid to a third consecutive defeat in Wednesday night’s action in the USL Championship.
KENNESAW, Ga. – The Rowdies ran their undefeated start to the season to seven games as Forrest Lasso and Juan Tejada found the net in either half to defeat Atlanta at Fifth Third Bank Stadium on Wednesday night.
Neither side was able to create many chances in the opening half-hour, but the Rowdies took the lead shortly after the first-half hydration break. A corner kick from the right by Lewis Hilton found Forrest Lasso at the back post, and the center back headed down powerfully just inside the left post in the 34th minute. Lasso almost notched a second goal in similar fashion a few minutes later, only for Atlanta goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard to make an excellent diving safe to keep it a one-goal game at the halftime break.
Atlanta looked to hit back five minutes into the second half as Phillip Goodrum found space in the penalty area only for Rowdies goalkeeper Evan Louro to parry his shot to safety. Baboucarr Njie also went close for the hosts in the 65th minute with a low shot that dragged wide of the right post from the top of the penalty area, while six minutes later the Rowdies also threatened as Malik Johnson was first denied by Lundgaard after a weaving run into the penalty area from midfield before the Atlanta goalkeeper recovered to make another save on Yann Ekra as he followed up on the rebound.
Tampa Bay doubled its lead with nine minutes to go, however, as Ekra sent Tejada forward without support. That didn’t deter the Panamanian, however, who after reaching the edge of the penalty area checked up and found space for a curling finish into the right corner of the net that was just beyond Lundgaard desparate dive. Atlanta had one final chance in stoppage time to find a consolation goal, but Amir Bashti’s shot was denied by Louro as he posted a third consecutive shutout and fourth overall this season.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Forrest Lasso, Tampa Bay Rowdies – Lasso scored the opening goal of the night and almost notched a second while also making nine clearances, four recoveries and winning all three aerial duels on the night.
MATTHEWS, N.C. – A goal deep in second-half stoppage time by Mikey Lopez earned Legion FC a point on the road against the Independence, who had initially taken a late lead at the Sportsplex at Matthews on Dane Kelly’s 80th regular-season goals in the Championship.
Looking to get back in the win column, the Independence looked bright early and almost took the lead in the 10th minute as Dane Kelly volleyed just wide of the left post after a good cross from the left by Derek Gebhard. Neither side was able to gain the upper hand as the game went into a lightning delay in the 37th minute, but Birmingham almost grabbed the lead soon after the game resumed. A turnover by the Independence gave an opportunity for Bruno Lapa to break into the right side of the penalty area and fire, but Independence goalkeeper Brandon Miller was able to make a diving save.
Charlotte almost found the opening goal two minutes into the second half when a long pass forward played Joel Johnson into the right side of the penalty area. His cutback came to Vincent Sabella, but as he looked to cut across the top of the six-yard area to create a clean lane to shoot, Legion FC goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel snatched the ball away and ended the threat. Miller was then called on again in the 61st minute for the hosts as Alex Crognale put a good header on frame from a corner kick from the left and the Independence shot-stopper turned the shot away.
The game entered its second lightning delay in the 67th minute, and after the game resumed Legion FC’s Prosper Kasim fired just wide of the right post from the edge of the penalty area with 15 minutes to go. The visitors were reduced to 10 men with 10 minutes to go, however, as Anderson Asiedu received his second yellow card of the game, and two minutes later Kelly struck, holding off a defender to get to Luke Haakenson’s knockdown before corkscrewing a shot from a tight angle on the right side of the penalty area just inside the left post.
The Independence then looked to see out the win, but almost added a second in the final minute as an interception in the Legion FC half opened up a chance for Haakenson, only for his shot from the left side of the penalty area to be turned wide by Van Oekel. The missed opportunity proved costly in stoppage time as Birmingham grabbed an equalizer. Joining the attack for a late corner kick, Van Oekel almost found the net with a header that Miller had to parry wide, but on the ensuing set piece, the Birmingham goalkeeper’s header back across goal caused chaos in the penalty area that saw Lopez keep the coolest head and fire home with almost the last kick of the game.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Mikey Lopez, Birmingham Legion FC – Lopez grabbed the late equalizer for a 10-man Legion FC side and also completed 20 of 23 passes, made nine recoveries and two interceptions while going 3 of 3 in tackles on the night.
HARRISON, N.J. – Loudoun United claimed its first win of the 2020 season as goals in either half lifted the side to victory against a Red Bulls II side that had to play down a man for 75 minutes at Red Bull Arena.
Looking to earn its first win of the season, Loudoun had an early chance that was narrowly volleyed over the crossbar by Elvis Amoh. The visitors got a major boost in the 15th minute, however, when Red Bulls II goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley was sent off for handling outside his penalty area to deny a goalscoring opportunity, reducing New York to 10 men. The Red Bulls II had the next good chance, however, as Sebastian Elney’s free kick was saved by United goalkeeper Colin Miller in the 25th minute. In first-half stoppage time, however, Loudoun’s Ted Ku-Dipietro squeezed home a finish to the left corner for his first goal of the season.
Despite being down a man, New York almost pulled level two minutes into the second half when Chris Lema cut a pass back to Elney with his back to goal at the top-right corner of the six-yard area. Elney attempted a back-heeled finish, but Miller wasn’t caught out and pushed it wide for a corner. Elney threatened again five minutes later but was again kept out by a diving save by Miller. The visitors added to their lead, however, when the Red Bulls II were whistled for a handball in the penalty area and Elvis Amoh shot low to the left corner to convert from the spot.
The Red Bulls II began to mount a comeback with 11 minutes to go, though, as center back Preston Kilwien set off upfield after making an interception just inside Loudoun’s half. After laying the ball off to a teammate, Jake LaCava found Kilwien as he arrived at the penalty area, and Kilwien wove into the left side of the penalty area and shot home to halve the deficit. There would be no equalizer for the hosts, however, as Loudoun extended New York’s losing streak to three games.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Elvis Amoh, Loudoun United FC – Amoh converted from the penalty spot for what would serve as United’s winning goal, and had five shots overall while completing 18 of 26 passes and making eight recoveries.