Photo Courtesy Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies
In their first season in the USL, the Tampa Bay Rowdies impressed in the USL Eastern Conference, claiming third place in the regular season before falling in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Led by veteran stars, Marcel Schafer and Joe Cole, the Rowdies played entertaining soccer, scoring 50 goals with several stunning strikes part of that tally.
In a tight fight for position at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Rowdies managed a late run to jump up to third place, and get home advantage for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Rowdies were unable to hold get past New York Red Bulls II in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, falling short in an epic playoff contest, but the side seemed primed to be among the main contenders again in 2018 after a phenomenal first USL season.
Record: 14-7-11, 53pts
Place: Third in the Eastern Conference
Goals For: 50
Goals Against: 35
USL Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal (W 3-0 vs. FC Cincinnati), Eastern Conference Semi-Final (L 2-1 AET vs. New York Red Bulls II)
2017 leaders: Georgi Hristov (13 goals), Marcel Schafer (11 assists), Matt Pickens (69 saves)
The Rowdies played some entertaining soccer in 2017, managing to score 50 goals, with a number of high-quality finishes among them, including Marcel Schafer making the Fans Choice Goal of the Year vote for two of his goals. Georgi Hristov and first Deshorn Brown and then Martin Paterson proved a phenomenal combination up front for the Rowdies as Hristov finished the season with 13 goals, contesting for the Golden Boot at times of the year. That entertaining soccer packed fans into Al Lang Stadium with an average attendance of 5,663 putting them seventh in the USL.
With just one loss at home all season, the Rowdies were tremendously hard to beat at Al Lang Stadium but the Rowdies really struggled on the road. The Rowdies won just three matches away from home, the difference between the Rowdies topping the Eastern Conference and settling for third place. The road record was part of the Rowdies' difficult run in the middle of the season where they went seven matches without a win, which saw five of those matches being contested on the road.
Marcel Schafer scored a number of long distance rockets in 2017 but this goal against FC Cincinnati was the pick of the lot. Picking up possession in midfield, Schafer looked up around 40 yards out and took a powerful shot which was perfectly out of the reach of FCC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt to find the back of the net, and the ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 that night.
Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens first made a strong punch on a corner swung into the box, before getting back into position to turn away a curling finish to the top-left corner of the net by the Charlotte Independence's Enzo Martinez at full stretch to keep the Rowdies in front.