Tampa Bay Rowdies Annihilated Las Vegas
By JJ Pavlick
Tampa entered the game in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference and on the heels of both Memphis 901 and Louisville. With a win, Tampa Bay could clinch a spot in the playoffs and keep their hopes alive of winning the Eastern Conference. Tampa came out of the gates strong tonight in front of a decent crowd given College Football just started back and had some big games on during their time slot.
In the 1st minute of the match, Las Vegas #26 Cal Jennings was issued a yellow card for a hard unnecessary challenge at midfield. Tampa dominated in the 1st half of play pressing the Vegas midfield and defenders into multiple turnovers that lead to a barrage of goal-scoring opportunities. The goals took a little time to come as the team was hell bound on getting Seba on the score sheet fast and forced many passes at him that got turned away while Leo and LaCava were wide open for runs at the net. In the 8th minute of action once again referee controversy reared its ugly head. Las Vegas commits handling inside the box without any question and the referee just ignores it and awards a corner kick to Tampa. Leo took the corner and found El Captain wide open in front of the goal but Vegas Keeper Abraham Romero made a great save punching the ball away from the goal. It found Antley who again tried to find Seba but it gets blocked out for a corner which turned into nothing. Las Vegas Cal Jennings is doing a lot of running with no real threat to Tampa. Tampa continues its dominance in the 1st half and finally, in the 24th min Leo breaks the defense apart and finds Seba for the header on goal saved rebound finds Etu who makes a nice through ball pass to Scarlett at the top of the box and fires a missile into the goal for a Tampa 1-0 lead. A few min later LaCava is fouled hard in the box and the referee again says no this continues to be an ongoing feud between Tampa and Pro Referees association. In the past 4 matches, there have been 6 obvious penalty kick situations in which the center referee for the match has denied calling a penalty kick for the Rowdies. In the 2 losses leading into last game’s victory against Orange County, both those games were decided by the center referee not calling obvious penalty kicks in 1-0 games in extra time both for clear handlings in the box. Collins is again visibly angered by the lack of calls inside the box. The center official for this match was Thomas Snyder. This seems to be an ongoing issue in American Soccer at all levels for the past 2 seasons and the trend seems to be getting worse. It is also worth the mention that the British Premier League, La Liga, and other major leagues worldwide have also had this same issue arising except theirs is with the VAR referees missing obvious calls or making poor judgments league-wide. Back to the game though which was spectacular for the Rowdies tonight and a great performance by MVP favorite league-wise Leo Fernandes who turned in another stellar match for the Rowdies. Will try a do an article on the referee crisis heard around the world soon. LaCava missed about 2 min of action before being waved back onto the pitch. Leo Fernandes broke through the midfield and was taken down hard at the top of the box, on replay shows the Vegas player stomping on the back of his ankle not only was there no card but no foul was called and there was no advantage to be played. After a poor clearance by Vegas Wyke unleashed a rocket from 22 yards out but it was blocked in the box by Vegas defenders. Since the brutal non-calls, it seems to have lit a fire inside the Rowdies who had already been pressing heavy and they seem to have found another gear. Etu draws the referee’s attention and is given an odd Yellow Card for a seemingly normal foul that goes unpunished. Seba is taken down hard just outside the box and literally, the ball was millimeters from being inside. The referee issues a yellow card to Vegas #4 Alejandro Lara. Leo and Hilton stand over the free kick and run a designed play with Leo faking the run, Hilton’s shot is blocked by the wall but lands on Antley’s foot where he plays a nice pass to Scarlett who rockets a shot wide of the goal. Etu commits a foul shortly after being given a yellow, but the referee lets this go with just a foul call. Etu needs to settle down before he puts his team down a man for the 2nd match in a row. Vegas miss hits the free kick and it goes straight to “The Samba Man” Leo Fernandes who makes no mistakes and punishes the Vegas side with a hard shot into the goal for a 2-0 lead. Everything is going right tonight in Tampa 38 minutes into the half. That goal was Leo Fernandes’s 14th on the season which moves him into a tie for 5th most league-wide wide this season and increases Tampa’s lead. Minutes later LaCava goes at goal and Vegas keeper Abraham Romero dives onto the ball just before LaCava can strike it at an open goal. Leo steals the throw-out by Romero and is fouled at the top of the box near the right corner. Hilton and Leo line up over it and Leo strikes a beautifully curved shot that hits the upper 90 And stays out but finds El Captain Seba who bicycle strikes it on goal and a great save by Romero to keep it 2-0. How Romero saved that shot will forever be unknown. What an insane sequence of events for the Tampa side and Leo continues to show why he is the league favorite for MVP this season. In the 45th min, LaCava finds Antley in the box who plays it towards an oncoming Seba, and Leo and Romero dived on it quickly to stop the goal. Ref adds 3 extra minutes of play to 1st half. Seba has a chance to score before half ends but dribbles out the clock instead. So, Tampa goes into the locker room again for the 2nd straight match-up 2-0. Fans are hoping the team comes out stronger this time to start the 2nd half. The last match saw Tampa come out flat to start and they paid for it in multiple ways losing a man to a red card and giving up a quick goal.
The 2nd half starts with a bang as both teams trade goal-scoring chances and Tampa continues to dominate the game. Seba, LaCava, Leo, and Antley all come close to starting the 2nd half off with a quick goal, but Romero denies them. In the 50th min, a beautifully thrown ball into the box by Wyke appears to have been played by a Vegas defender’s hand and no call was made. The ball was headed straight for Seba who had an empty net to shoot at if the ball was not knocked down. The game isn’t using VAR for some odd reason, 50th min Tampa finally finds the back of the net again Jake LaCava takes a great pass from Antley and buries it for a now 3-0 lead. 3 min later Leo Fernandes Sambas his way around 3 Vegas defenders but in a last-ditch attempt to stop Leo from shooting a Vegas player gets just enough to prevent the shot after a beautiful display of skill from the Brazilian. Leo gets fouled shortly after at the top of the box and his pass just misses Seba. Referee issues a Corner Kick instead of a free kick from the top of the box. LaCava and Leo are making life miserable for Romero and come close to blocking his clearance attempt. Lucky Mkosana starts warming up on the sideline for Tampa. A miss-played pass by Seba to Antley in the Vegas box leads to a long ball counterattack for Jennings who is in on the goal, but Tampa’s Scarlett gets back with an amazing slide tackle to take away any shot on net keeping the score 3-0. A great slide tackle by Scarlett saved a definite goal for Jennings. 59th min Seba finds LCava wide open at the top of the box and his shot rockets just over the crossbar. Vegas gets the ball back in play quickly with a long punt by Romero and Jennings finds his way between Scarlett and Castellanos somehow and makes them pay with a rocket into the back of the net. C.J. tried to save it but stood no chance, not sure what happened with Tampa’s defense which was pretty solid till that point. The 60th min sees a pair of substitutions made for Tampa #31 Nicky Law comes on for Etou who has a yellow and comes close a few times to get the 2nd one. The other sub is #21 Dayonn Harris for #5 Jordan Scarlett. This one may be a message from Collins after the breakdown that led to Jennings scoring. In the 62nd minute Leo finds Seba in on goal from 40 yards out, but the AR raises his flag calling Seba offside, replay shows Seba was well onside and a costly error by the AR. Harris steals the ball at midfield but then turns it right back over with some sloppy play. The kid is fast but sometimes too fast for his own good out there on the pitch. Vegas makes a sub coming on Erik Duenas for Christopher Jaime. In the 66th min, Leo Fernandes steals the ball and beats 3 defenders, and is taken down 20 yards from the goal. The referee awards the Free Kick and Leo Fernandes makes no mistake putting it in the back of the net for his 15th goal of the season moving him into a tie for 4th with Oakland Roots player Karisson and 4 behind the leader from OCSC Milan Iloski who has 19. Rowdies now are up 4-1 over Vegas with a little more than 20 minutes to play plus extra time. Jennings tries his luck again from 22 yards out but C.J. was able to save this one easily keeping the 3-goal lead for Tampa. Leo just misses Seba with a long through ball a little too much pace on it for El Captain in this late stage of the match. 73rd min Tampa makes a substitution to bring on Steevan dos Santos for Jake LaCava who played well again tonight and scored for Tampa early in 2nd half. 74th-minute dos Santos gets away with what VAR would’ve deemed a red card upon review and is only issued a yellow card after elbowing the head of the Vegas player. Seba misses a golden chance on goal, blocked out for a corner kick. The ball deflects off the defender’s shoulder for another Corner for the Rowdies. The ball is played over everyone, but Leo tracks it down and heads to the goal and only a Superman save by Romero prevents Leo from the hat trick and a 5-1 Tampa lead. Romero has made some huge saves tonight on the Rowdies. Vegas on the next whistle makes immediate substitutions coming off #8 Jorge Almaguer replaced by #23 Chase Bromstedt, off #14 Daron Iskenderian replaced by #32 Rafael Tejada, and # 28 Antonio Leone for #6 Nathan Sepulveda. 83rd min Tampa Bay Defender Robert Castellanos goes down with cramps. Tampa makes 2 substitutions # 77 Lucky Mkosana comes on for #13 Seba Guenzatti (El Captain) and #47 Tate Johnson comes on for #24 Robert Castellanos. Lucky Mkosana now joins El Captain and Leo Fernandes with 100 career appearances for the Rowdies. Tampa doesn’t waste any time as Dos Santos heads home a cross that sailed just over Leo’s head to make it 5-1 Tampa and then Lucky Mkosana in his 100th appearance scores a blistering goal off an assist by Leo Fernandes to make it 6-1 in the 93rd min. Leo had one more chance at the hat trick but runs out of gas and was unable to fully connect to the ball that was saved by Romero. End of Match
Leo Fernandes wins Man of The Match yet again for the Rowdies and there was no question about it. The win also secures a playoff berth for the Rowdies who will look to add another cup to their trophy case this season. Leo Fernandes continues to impress out on the pitch and shows why he is the hands-down favorite for MVP this year in the USL. He is also gaining looks by MLS as teams are trying to sure up their rosters. Rowdies impress their home fans yet again with back-to-back wins and secure the much-desired playoff clinch. Rowdies’ next match is 9/10/22 vs Charleston Battery at Patriot Point.