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3 key takeaways after the Rowdies, Republic FC ended all square

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/03/23, 10:04PM EDT


First meeting between USL Championship title contenders provided plenty of intrigue in 1-1 draw

The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Sacramento Republic FC’s first meeting in their respective histories ended in a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium, bringing to an end the Rowdies’ five-game winning streak while earning a valuable point on the road for the current Western Conference leaders.

Here are three things we took away from the game.


There was no inkling that Sacramento Republic FC wasn’t going to go into the halftime break behind after being dominated by the Tampa Bay Rowdies for the opening 40 minutes at Al Lang Stadium. And then, with the first shot on target of the game for the visitors in the final minute of the first half, everything changed.

Republic FC’s goal was beautifully executed as Russell Cicerone took advantage when the backline retreated, threading a perfect pass that picked out Nick Ross’ run before the Scottish midfielder calmly shot home into the left corner. Getting into the second half on even terms was an escape for Sacramento, and it allowed the visitors to come out and execute their plan to far greater effect in the second half.

Sacramento couldn’t turn its edge in possession and momentum into all three points as Tampa Bay’s Connor Sparrow notched a pair of good saves to keep the game all square, but it could have been facing a far harder task if not for Ross’ timely finish.


The game opened with the two teams almost setting up defensively in mirror images of each other, spreading a shallow web across the field that almost looked like a man-to-man marking system at times. The Rowdies figured out how to break it down first and could have taken greater advantage before JJ Williams provided the breakthrough in the 33rd minute.

Pulling players in for sharp combination passing sequences, Tampa Bay kept Sacramento consistently on the back foot, while the visitors were unable to find an outlet consistently as Forrest Lasso and Freddie Kleeman gave Sebastian Herrera little space to hold up play. The Rowdies took the first eight shots of the game and were denied another big opportunity by a sliding Jack Gurr interception shortly before the goal arrived, and against another side could have been out of sight before their opponent found their feet.


The Rowdies ended the game with nine men after JJ Williams and Conner Antley were both shown red cards for two cautionable offenses, and while it was to the ire of the fans in attendance the physicality the hosts showed ended up resulting in a shorthanded end to the night. Tampa Bay tied a single-game high this season with 23 fouls overall, and adding on top of that cautions like Williams’ first – officially for timewasting – resulted in other fouls later in the game proving costly.

Williams could have had a winner for Tampa Bay with eight minutes to go as Cal Jennings broke forward in a good counterattack opportunity, but the forward got too physical behind the play as he tried to break free from a marker, annulling his simple finish as he ended up getting a second yellow card. The Rowdies should be fine with attacking options for a game in Williams’ absence – Jennings looked bright after coming on as a second-half substitute – but the ending seemed symbolic of how the game got away from Tampa Bay after looking outstanding in the first half.

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