Photo courtesy of 2018 Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies’ strong run to start the 2018 USL regular season continued on Saturday, as the team earned an impressive 5-0 victory against Ottawa Fury FC at Al Lang Stadium. Georgi Hristov’s third goal of the campaign proved to be the winner in the match, while the team added four more goals before all was said and done. Hristov’s goal came in the 60th minute, as Marcel Schäfer served in an inch-perfect cross from the left wing, and Hristov was there to head the ball by Fury FC goalkeeper Callum Irving. The floodgates finally opened for the home side following that goal, as Leo Fernandes had a hand in the next two goals, Joe Cole netted his first one of the season and Zac Portillos added the fifth tally of the night in stoppage time. With the result, the Rowdies move to 3-1-0 on the season, while Ottawa falls to 0-2-0.
60’ – TBR – Georgi Hristov (Marcel Schäfer)
70’ – TBR – Own Goal
77’ – TBR – Leo Fernandes
85’ – TBR – Joe Cole (Jack Blake)
90+3’ – TBR – Zac Portillos (Leo Fernandes)
Three Things That Matter:
1. It’s just a matter of time now before Georgi Hristov becomes the all-time leading scorer for the Rowdies. His header in the 60th minute was his third goal of the season, and it also served as a major turning point for the Rowdies in Saturday’s victory. The home side had been knocking at the door for most of the match until Hristov’s header broke the deadlock. He has been an important piece of the puzzle for Tampa Bay since his arrival in 2013, and he showed why he remains a key figure for the Rowdies as they aim to reach the USL Cup this season.
2. Ottawa kicked off for the first time since March 17, and it showed on Saturday. Fury FC had three weeks of training following its 4-1 loss to the Charlotte Independence, as its second game of the regular season against Toronto FC II on March 31 was postponed. The side had a couple of good looks at goal within the first 20 minutes of the match, including a chance for Gerardo Bruna in the 18th minute; however, the team was unable to really test Rowdies goalkeeper Cody Mizell on the night. Ottawa Head Coach Nikola Popovic said the team played with a “lack of consistency” at halftime, and Fury FC struggled to combine in the final third during the second half. Popovic will have a lot of work to do in preparation for the team’s matchup with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC next week.
3. Behind the exceptional play of Leo Fernandes in the second half, the Rowdies improved its all-time USL record against Fury FC to 2-0-2. While he is only credited with one goal and one assist, Fernandes played a part in three goals on Saturday. He forced the second goal of the game by driving a low ball towards the right post before Fury FC defender Chris Mannella deflected it into his own net. Fernandes then showed off his skill set on the ball eight minutes later, dribbling his way into the box before blasting a ball by Ottawa netminder Callum Irving. Finally, he delivered an exceptional pass into the box for Zac Portillos to head home the fifth goal of the game. While the Rowdies have had many players shine in their first four games of the season, Fernandes has been arguably the biggest difference-maker to date, and fans will be hoping his form continues in the weeks to come.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Leo Fernandes, Tampa Bay Rowdies – The forward had a hand in the second and third goals, with the latter being scored after a quality run into the box, and he also assisted the fifth goal of the evening.
Tampa Bay Rowdies at New York Red Bulls II – April 14, 4 p.m. ET, Red Bull Arena
Ottawa Fury FC at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – April 14, 7 p.m. ET, Highmark Stadium