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Morrell’s Breakthrough Continues Rowdies’ Run

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 07/30/17, 11:14AM EDT


First two league goals made difference in victory against Hounds

Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – An eighth home victory of the season was in sight for the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday night, ahead by a goal against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds with less than 15 minutes to go. Then Alex Morrell capped the best night of his young career with the clincher, as practice made perfect in a 2-0 victory in front of 5,737 fans at Al Lang Stadium.

Finding space in the right side of the penalty area as the Rowdies built through the left channel, a chipped ball by Marcel Schafer found the local standout alone for a decisive volley back across goal that tucked just inside the left post.

“I’ve been working on that all week,” said Morrell. “Some back post runs with some balls coming over the top. I got 10 or 15 passes every other day in training to work on that back-post volley. I knew as soon as it went over his head that I was going to volley it. I wanted to just keep it low instead of blasting it over, so it hit the ground and deflected in.”

Morrell notched both goals on the night as the Rowdies extended their undefeated streak to four games, with three wins coming in that span. The first arrived in just the 11th minute as the Lakeland, Fla. native was in the right place at the right time to knock home a close-range finish after the ball had pinballed around the Hounds’ penalty area.

The goal was Morrell’s first in the USL, and his second overall this season after having opened his account for the Rowdies in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in May. After some near-misses over the past month, including in last week’s two-goal victory against the Charleston Battery, the early tally helped the hosts settle into the win.

“The tap-in was probably one of the easiest goals I think I’ve ever scored in my life, but it was pretty important for the team,” said Morrell.

The Rowdies’ run of three wins in their last four games has set the side back on course to contend for a high finish in the USL Eastern Conference, with Morrell’s emergence one of the keys. Having suffered through a seven-game winless streak prior that threatened the club’s top-four position, Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell has been pleased with the response his side has shown since defeating FC Cincinnati on July 6.

“When we had the injuries and suspensions that we had, it would’ve been easy for us to go out there and [make panic signings],” said Campbell. “We didn’t because we believe in the group of players that we’ve got. Hopefully that’s going to improve and we’re going to be a fully fit squad.”

Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

With Damion Lowe getting ready to return to the lineup after taking a place on the bench Saturday following his recent standout performances for Jamaica at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and Walter Restrepo bedding in with the squad, the path ahead for Tampa Bay looks to be on firm footing.

“I think this is the best we’ve played all season,” said Morrell. “It was a really good team performance, so I want to credit the rest of the guys tonight.” 

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