The Tampa Bay Rowdies put home four second-half goals on the way to a 5-1 victory against the New England Revolution II at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies kicked off preseason on Saturday afternoon with a 5-1 victory against MLS NEXT Pro side New England Revolution II at Al Lang Stadium. After ending the opening half all squad, the Rowdies pulled away with four goals after the break to put the match away as newcomers Ariel Martinez and JJ Williams both found the net.
“I think there’s a lot of things you’re looking for, but ultimately it’s about fitness. That is why we’re playing this game now,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “We want, obviously, to see certain tactical aspects in there. We’ve seen some of them and there’s some others we need to work on, but we’ve worked for two weeks. There’s lots of new guys and some young boys in there. We’re trying to keep everything in perspective…. Lots of positives. From a fitness point of view it was good. We played against a good opponent. All in all, a good day’s work.”
Tampa Bay struck first in the 22nd minute when Lucky Mkosana swiped the ball off the visitors in the final third and centered a pass for the reigning USL Championship MVP Leo Fernandes to slot home. Fernandes, the longest tenured member of the squad, led the Rowdies in both goals (20) and assists (9) in last year’s campaign.
Former Rowdies forward Jordan Adebayo-Smith put New England back on level terms eight minutes later, finding a pocket of space just outside Tampa Bay’s box to bury a strike into the back of the net.
Dayonn Harris broke the deadlock for Tampa Bay just five minutes into the second half. Newcomer Charlie Dennis whipped in a looping corner kick that was brought down by Martinez. The Cuban veteran deftly backheeled the ball for Harris to blast into the goal with a left footed strike. Harris is entering his third season in Tampa Bay after notching five goals and five assists in 2022.
The Rowdies pulled further ahead off of another set piece in the 57th minute. Lewis Hilton made the delivery, finding the head of center back Forrest Lasso, who is returning to Tampa Bay after spending 2022 with GIF Sundsvall in Sweden.
Martinez grabbed a fourth Rowdies goal in the 78th minute, collecting a pass at the top of the box and swiftly striking the ball into the upper right corner of the goal. Williams then capped off the result with a sliding finish in front of goal off a pass from Jordan Doherty.