Rowdies dominate Round 1 vs Miami
By JJ Pavlick
The Rowdies take on Miami at Al Lang Stadium tonight in the 1st round of the USL Championship League playoffs. The Rowdies have a near-capacity crowd on hand for tonight’s matchup. You can be sure the Rowdies faithful will be loud and inspire their squad to victory tonight. The Rowdies will start in a 4-2-3-1 match along with Miami. Look for the Rowdies to feed their MVP Leo Fernandes often to break down the Miami wall as they’re referred to by many teams in the league. One thing to keep an eye on is birthday man Lewis Hilton who is playing injured tonight.
The 1st half is underway here in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rowdies come out and push the Miami defense right away. So far in the first 25’, the Rowdies have dictated the play and tempo of the match. Leo has had a few moments where he has broken down the backline, but his teammates haven’t capitalized yet on the chances. Both teams going beyond the midpoint of the first half are starting to settle down and try to move players out of position. Leo gets fouled quickly to prevent him from spinning out on a break, the restart finds Leo, and he breaks down the Miami defense and finds Seba, Seba fires a shot on the goal, but it’s deflected just wide by the defender and out for a corner kick. In the 29’ Antley is shown a yellow card by the center referee, careless play by Antley. Two minutes later Guillen is called for a foul to the far left of the goal. About a 25-yard attempt if they decide to shoot on the goal. Miami’s Valot sends a cross into the box, it’s quickly cleared by Wyke, and the Rowdies start their counterattack. In the 35’ Harris yet again keeps his head down and misses a great pass, thankfully Miami played it out for a corner. Seba and Fernandes are unhappy with Harris right now. The corner kick is canceled due to a foul in the box by Castellanos, poor play there has to be more disciplined at that moment. 38’ Miami tries to get something going, but their cross into the box is knocked out by Guillen. Leo giving the center a look after not getting the foul call at midfield, now LaCava is taken down and finally, the referee calls it, he shows a yellow card to #4 Chapman of Miami. 40’ Hilton takes the free kick, and it hits the center referee again. The man has to learn to get out of the way, he has stopped 2 perfect passes that would’ve led to shots on goal. I know it’s his 1st playoff match but my word, there is no excuse for making yourself a part of the game. I guess the center forgot when he blocks a pass or shot it’s a drop ball restart. The center will get an ear full at halftime for sure. Leo Fernandes destroys the Miami backline and goes for goal, the last defender just gets a toe on it to prevent the shot, Leo recovers and finds Harris who turns it over inside the box. Harris needs to wake up during halftime, he is playing wild and reckless out there which isn’t a good strategy for the playoffs. The youngster is showing he isn’t ready for a 90’ game, he is a super sub at this point in his young career. Harris takes a boot to the upper leg studs up and no call from the center. Now LaCava is taken out harshly by #4 Chapman of Miami. That should be a 2nd yellow and dismissal from this match. This center needs to have a refresher course on the Laws of the Game at half-time. He is making this match all about him and not protecting the players on the pitch at all. Studs up by Miami on Harris a straight red card went completely uncalled by the Center and his assistant referee #21 Akinyode should be in the showers for his blatant assault on Harris. In the 45’+4 Law takes the free kick; he sends a screaming bender toward the near upper 90 and it goes inches wide. The center blows the whistle to end the first half. Rowdies’ players and Neil Collins are visibly upset with the center and rightfully so.
Look for the Rowdies to possibly make a substitution to start the 2nd half, can see Dos Santos coming on for Harris, moving Leo to the left, and Dos Santos central since he doesn’t have the ball skills of Fernandes. They can’t afford to lose Harris to severe injury in this match, also look for the center to come out and be an actual center referee for the 2nd half as well. The Rowdies dominated most of the 1st half tonight and the referee broke up 2 solid chances at goal. Yes, you read that properly the center referee broke up 2 solid chances at goal for the Rowdies tonight and didn’t stop play.
2nd half is underway neither team makes changes, Tampa Bay wastes no time and runs straight at Chapman and earns a corner kick. The kick will be taken by Law, his kick just misses Wykes head in the box. The Rowdies are playing fired up and taking it to Miami right now, they’re going right at Akinyode and Chapman. Harris is playing scared if he continues that type of play then look for Collins to pull him quickly. Fernandes from a bad angle finds Seba and his shot goes just wide of the far post. Tampa GOAL!!!! Leo “The Samba Man” Fernandes destroys the entire Miami defense and fires a rocket on goal, rebound finds Seba and he nails it into the back of the net for the go-ahead goal in the 51’. The Rowdies are pumped and now look for them to go for the jugular and end this match quickly. Seba gets leveled by the Miami defender Craig, Leo quickly fouls Perez to end their run toward the goal. The game is getting nasty again and this match can get out of hand fast. In the 56’ Breno makes a horrible attempt to save a weak roller and it beats him. We’re now tied up 1-1 after that disaster, the Rowdies respond quickly and draw a foul 20 yards from the goal. Law takes it but his pass goes straight to Miami who clears it easily. The Rowdies earned another corner kick a minute later. The kick will be taken by Leo Fernandes, he finds Seba whose shot bounces to Harris, he shoots, and it deflects to Tampa's Nicky Law, he shoots and scores, GOAL Tampa Bay in the 59’ 2-1 Tampa. Guillen tosses Valot to the side as the Frenchman tries to push over Guillen. The Rowdies have the 2-1 lead and look to finish this game off in the next few minutes. The center needs to control the temperature of the game. In the 63’ Miami makes a substitution; Ballard comes in for Perez. The Rowdies’ pressure is starting to take its toll on the match as they create another turnover and start to press the Miami backline. Harris’s try at goal goes out for a throw-in. The crowd cheers as the pass is made up the field by Tampa and the referee doesn’t block it this time. Wyke for some reason jumps in front of Fernandes to take a pass and Leo looks at him funny. Wyke turns the ball over and Miami heads toward the Rowdie backline. Guillen breaks it up and finds Leo who makes a long through pass to Harris, but he can’t control it. Leo gets it back and attacks the backline, the ball is just tipped away before the shot attempt. Harris with the shot in the 70’ off a pass from Leo goes wide off a deflection by Miami. Seba scores again for the Rowdies in the 71’ of the play, off a Harris cross into the box 3-1 Tampa Bay Rowdies. Miami makes a substitution bringing on Repetto for Murphy and Reid for Chapman. Tampa also makes a change they bring in Ekra for Harris in the 75’. A minute later LaCava tries to find Leo Fernandes for the breakaway attempt at the Miami goal, but the pass is broken up by Akinyode. Ekra is fouled hard by #96 Segbers who draws the attention of the center who blows his whistle hard multi times to get his attention. He gives him a stern talking over a yellow card. In the 84’ Ballard is shown a yellow card for his foul on Guillen, Tampa makes a substitution bringing on Dos Santos for LaCava. Jake is pumping the crowd up on his way to the bench. Breno makes an easy save on the Miami shot from 18 yards out, in the 89’. The Samba Man makes Miami defenders look silly and he sends a 40-yard pass to Dos Santos who tries to spin and shoot but the ball gets knocked away, Law keeps it alive, but Dos Santos turns it over again. Tampa Bay makes a substitution in the 90’+1 Etou comes on for Law. The center blows the whistle and ends the match in the 90’+2, Tampa wins 3-1.