Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies scored twice in the second half to hand Louisville City FC its first defeat of the season with a 2-0 victory in front of 5,410 fans at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night. Both teams came out aggressively, and Tampa Bay (5-2-1, 16pts) almost took the lead in the 11th minute when Darwin Jones’ free kick flashed just over the crossbar. Louisville’s Mark-Anthony Kaye also went close after being played into the left side of the penalty area four minutes later, only to find the side-netting. Louisville’s Luke Spencer also just headed wide from Kaye’s free kick eight minutes before the break, but the game remained scoreless at halftime. The Rowdies went close to the opening goal 10 minutes into the second half, Louisville goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski making a great double-save to deny Jones and Joe Cole. Moments after coming on as a substitute, though, Georgi Hristov curled home a finish to put the Rowdies ahead in the 59th minute. Louisville (3-1-3, 12pts) almost struck back immediately as Kyle Smith’s close-range header was saved by Matt Pickens, but the Rowdies added a second with 18 minutes to go when Cole’s perfect pass set up Deshorn Brown on a counter-attack to finish.
59’ – TBR – Georgi Hristov (Joe Cole)
72’ - TBR – Deshorn Brown (Joe Cole)
Three Things That Matter:
1. Georgi Hristov has been a major part of the Rowdies’ modern history. On the night he became the club’s modern-era appearances leader – passing the legendary Takuya Yamada – it was only fitting that he be the player to break the deadlock in a big victory for Tampa Bay. The Bulgarian had only been on the field for six minutes when the chance arose, and Hristov’s inch-perfect curling finish into the right corner of the net set the Rowdies on their way to a big victory against their Eastern Conference rivals.
2. Louisville’s undefeated start the season came to an end on Saturday night as the team’s attack wasn’t quite able to come up with the goods when the opportunities presented themselves. That was in part due to a strong performance again by the Rowdies defense, which recorded its fifth shutout of the season at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night, but City will be looking to be sharper when it gets another strong defensive test next Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
3. Remarkably, Joe Cole entered Saturday night’s game without having recorded an assist. The former England international rectified that matter with the assist on both of the Rowdies’ goals, with the second to set up Deshorn Brown’s game-clinching goal an exquisite piece of skill with the outside of the boot. Cole has helped link the Rowdies’ play up well regularly throughout the season so far, and with players like Hristov and Brown around him, Tampa Bay is looking very strong as it enters its second quarter of the season.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Georgi Hristov, Tampa Bay Rowdies – The man of the moment on the night as he made his 121st appearance for the Rowdies, Hristov’s goal proved the winner to end Louisville’s undefeated start.
Tampa Bay Rowdies at Toronto FC II – May 19, 5 p.m. ET, Ontario Soccer Centre
Louisville City FC at Pittsburgh Riverhounds – May 20, 7 p.m. ET, Highmark Stadium