skip navigation

Rowdies Roar in Impressive Victory

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 10/22/17, 10:08AM EDT


Schäfer shone as Tampa Bay’s home advantage proved key once more

Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

ST. PETERBURG, Fla. – In front of a raucous crowd, looking to add to an already-stellar home record, the Tampa Bay Rowdies entered their first USL Cup Playoffs on a positive wave of momentum.

With a display of clinical finishing and creative thinking in the attacking third, the No. 3-seed Rowdies got exactly the sort of performance they were looking for in a 3-0 victory that dispatched the No. 6-seed FC Cincinnati for the second time this season and third time overall at Al Lang Stadium in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to send the vast majority of the crowd of 6,104 home happy.

Leading the way was Marcel Schäfer, as the former German international added to his remarkable first season in Tampa Bay with a pair of first-half goals that paved the way to victory for the hosts, their 12th at home in the regular season and playoffs this year.

“He’s just outstanding, isn’t he?” said Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell of Schäfer. “For a player of his caliber, for what he’s achieved in the game to have the attitude and application that he’s shown all season he’s an example for any player, not just younger players, but any professional players. Look at the drive and determination he’s got.

“He’s been absolutely great. Not just by what you see on the pitch, but what he brings in the locker room and the training field.”

Schäfer struck first in the eighth minute, latching onto a slipped pass by Georgi Hristov as he cut into the penalty area. His low finish slid past FCC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt, and brought an already energetic crowd to a higher pitch.

His second, though, provided another glimpse of what the 33-year-old had become known for in the regular season. A sliding challenge by an Cincinnati player sent the ball to Schäfer, and after looking up to see space and a shooting lane, his low shot rifled into the bottom-right corner.    

“Like in the regular season, you know me as a player who would much rather assist his teammates,” said Schäfer. “It means more to me than to score. I think now I can say that if you give me that much space, I could be dangerous.”

From there, the Rowdies’ midfield and defense took over, limiting both chances for Cincinnati to get back into the game, or to get a major foothold in the battle for possession. FCC’s forward duo of Djiby Fall and Danni König were limited to a combined three shots, all of which were off target, as Neill Collins and Hunter Gorskie both put in stellar displays.

With the added intensity of the opening night of the USL Cup Playoffs in the Rowdies’ history, the sense of occasion and urgency seemed apparent in every move Tampa Bay made.

“I sensed it all week,” said Campbell. “When we got to stadium I could tell, just by how many people were here early in the afternoon. You could just feel it in the air, I think everybody could feel the playoff atmosphere in here tonight. The noise that our fans made was tremendous.”

Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

With the side set to remain at home next Saturday night to face the No. 7-seed New York Red Bulls II in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, that feeling may only increase over the coming week.

“It was great. Our fans have been great all season and tonight again,” said Hristov, whose spectacular finish in the second half clinched the victory. “I really hope again that they’re really going to come out even more next week because we really need them. We feel more comfortable playing at home and I’m really happy we keep winning here. It’s great for us and great for our confidence.”

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos