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Three takeaways from the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ preseason win vs. CF Montreal

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 02/18/24, 7:50AM EST


Possession-heavy intent and high-pressure defensive work stood out in 4-1 win at Al Lang Stadium

Florida Premier youngster Christian Ortiz celebrates after capping the Tampa Bay Rowdies' 4-1 preseason victory against Club de Foot Montreal on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium. | Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Rowdies

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies surged to a 4-1 victory on Saturday night in a preseason exhibition against Club de Foot Montreal of Major League Soccer at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night as the club’s season-ticket members got a look at the club’s lineup for the new season.

Here are three storylines we took away from an impressive performance from the perennial USL Championship contender.


From the outset, the Rowdies were clear in wanting to set the tempo in possession and while it cost them in just the third minute – a turnover by one of the trialists in the starting lineup 25 yards from goal was expertly put away by Montreal’s Sunusi Ibrahim in a flash – the evidence that followed showed Tampa Bay has good reason to want to be ball-dominant. Lewis Hilton was central to this, of course, but Blake Bodily also looked a great fit as the left-sided wingback and by drawing Montreal forward it created spaces for the side’s forwards to operate that turned the game in Tampa Bay’s favor.

There is still work to be done to erase the errant passes that could cost the side when working in its initial build-out. There were also moments that saw longer passes sent forward where passer and recipient weren’t yet on the same page that should improve with time. At the same time, there was enough crisp passing and movement through midfield and into the final third that showed the quality the Rowdies could be capable of when the regular season begins.


While the Rowdies typically tried to hold possession consistently, when out of possession they were equally eager to play a high line and squeeze possession. There was an element of physical commitment that at times left Montreal flustered in its own half eventually led to the second Rowdies’ goal of the night seven minutes before halftime, finished off by a player whose arrival has yet to be announced, but who was sterling throughout his shift.

The Rowdies had some nervous moments when Montreal broke their pressure, but the resilience and recovery work the side produced was enough to compensate as Freddy Kleeman, Forrest Lasso and Jordan Doherty all put in solid performances on the back line. The benefits of the Rowdies’ pressure, meanwhile, were shown again in the punctuation mark of a final goal, scored with just over 10 minutes to go by Florida Premier youngster Christian Ortiz, who is currently training with the club in preseason. A back-pass on the heavy surface was misplayed by Montreal goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois, seized on by the Rowdies’ Danny Crisostomo, who set up a simple empty-net finish for Ortiz on a fine night for the hosts. 


Preseason games aren’t always indicators of future performance, but the confidence players can gain from good displays certainly won’t hurt. The fact that both Cal Jennings and Manuel Arteaga found the net for the Rowdies on Saturday night – each in characteristic fashion – should be a major plus for each as they look for another successful campaign.

Playing as the central striker in a three-man front line, Jennings was active throughout and poached a close-range goal to level the score just past the half-hour mark after Montreal was unable to clear a set piece cleanly. Arteaga, meanwhile, played primarily in the right channel and fired home a confident finish two minutes into the second half as his angled run kept him onside and in behind the visiting back line, from where he finished into the top-right corner of the net. With Leo Fernandes getting the night off – understandable in the soggy conditions, although he was present on the Rowdies bench – Tampa Bay’s attacking movement and ideas looked like they were coming together.

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