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Tampa looks to run El Paso out of town

By JJ Pavlick 10/12/22

The Tampa Bay Rowdies enter tonight’s match in third place and in striking distance of Memphis who sits four points ahead in 2nd place. El Paso enters the match trying to stay in the playoffs this season. The Rowdies get back their MVP Leo “The Samba Man” Fernandes who is believed by many to be this season’s league MVP. He has been a major force for the league to deal with and no one has had the answer for how to stop him. Even when Leo isn’t scoring, he is finding his teammates for goals, he knows how to control the pace of the game for the Rowdies from the forward position or the midfield. No other player in the league is as dangerous as Leo this season. The young Brazilian has a bright future that should see him move back up to MLS shortly. It will be sad to see him leave Tampa Bay, but even the diehards there can’t deny he deserves the shot at MLS again.

In the 9th minute, Leo Fernandes fires a rocket on the goal, saved by El Paso’s keeper. In the 17th minute, Leo “The Samba Man” Fernandes with another brilliant goal via the slide tackle again. He has made it a normal strike these past few months. He continues his MVP season by leading Tampa Bay into the playoffs. His goal was assisted by Jake LaCava the young Brazilian star on loan from NY Red Bulls. The Rowdies are pressing El Paso hard now and Leo is a hungry man tonight. He fires another shot-on goal, but the assistant referee raises his flag for offside. In the 29th minute Leo finds Dalgaard inside the box, he sends a through ball in for Seba, but he is just a step too slow, and the ball goes out for a goal kick. A minute later Scarlett with a late challenge is issued a yellow card. The Rowdies have taken full control of the match, pressing the El Paso backline hard not allowing them to catch their breath. The 37th minute, still has the Rowdies up 1-0 over El Paso and if not for some big saves the Rowdies could easily be up 4-0 already. In the 41st minute, LaCava with a hard strike from 20 yards out just goes over the crossbar and out of play for a goal kick. In the 43rd minute, LaCava finds Leo Fernandes and he makes no mistakes nutmegging his defender and Seba makes no mistake burying the through-ball with ease for the 2-0 lead late in the 1st half. Leo Fernandes is on fire tonight and making up for missing the last match. The fourth official announces there will be zero minutes added to the first half. The Center blows the whistle to indicate halftime.

The 2nd half of play is underway, and the Rowdies look to finish off El Paso. El Paso makes two substitutions to start the 2nd half. They bring on Zacarias and Maldonado, exiting is Garcia and Abarca. El Paso starts the half with possession and made but it's short-lived. Tampa is still controlling the play despite El Paso’s effort to start playing rough soccer. In the 59th minute, Breno with a nice save on El Paso’s shot, goes out for a corner kick. Breno saves the initial shot and Leo Fernandes saves the rebound shot out of play for a throw-in. That was their best chance of the match so far. In the 62nd minute, Tampa makes two subs bringing on #6 Etou for #4 Hilton and #7 Ekra comes on for #19 LaCava. In the 65th minute, Etou breaks in on goal off a beautiful backheel pass from Leo Fernandes and his shot is saved from 7 yards away. In the 67th minute, Ekra is pulled down in the box, and Leo Fernandes steps up to take the penalty kick. Leo blasts one to the lower middle of the net and the keeper’s toes stop the shot from going in. literally if the man wears one show size smaller it’s a goal. It’s a rare miss for the Brazilian star at the penalty mark. Leo comes right back at El Paso as a man possessed. He finds Ekra who shoots just wide of the goal. In the 70th minute, the El Paso keeper is taking a year and a day to put the ball back into play, this half will have some extra time added. Tampa continues to dominate all phases of the match in every zone. In the 72nd minute, the Locomotives earn a corner kick and Etou takes out his keeper, the ball curves into the far post for a Goal. The score is now 2-1 Tampa Bay with about 17 minutes left to play. Can’t imagine what Etou was thinking on that corner kick, really is head-scratching, to say the least. Breno was screaming for the ball, but Etou sent him flying over him. Leo and Seba march down the pitch, Leo sets to shoot but El Paso in a last-ditch effort just knocks it away in time from 10 yards out. Both teams make substitutions in the 76th minute of the match. In the 79th minute, Breno misplays an easy lob in, lucky for Tampa it goes wide of the goal for a goal kick. In the 80th minute Antley finds a gap and takes his shot, a great save by the Locomotives keeper. A corner kick for the Rowdies was taken by Law, to Leo who crosses the ball into the box, offside called by the assistant referee. Law is fouled hard at midfield, and the referee with a late whistle awards the free kick. In the 83rd minute, the center referee issues a yellow card to Locomotives #6 Ryan. Richie Ryan gets in Leo Fernandes’s face and the center is having none of it. He separates Ryan and gives him a firm warning. In the 84th minute the Locomotives foul Ekra hard. Leo wisely runs up and sends a blast down to Harris who is tugged and held by #22 on El Paso. Referee issues a yellow card #22 Liam Rose. Leo takes the free kick, and it goes just over the crossbar. He didn’t miss by much. In the 90th minute, El Paso continues to yank down every Rowdies player they can. Leo Fernandes goes 65 yards dribbling like a man on a mission and destroys the El Paso keeper’s ankles and buries the ball into the back of the goal. “The Samba Man” comes up huge again for his club. The score is now 3-1 Rowdies, the fourth official also announces a minimum of 3 extra minutes will be added. Leo has 2 goals and an assist tonight in his return for the Rowdies. That’s the match the center blows the whistle, and the Rowdies gain 3 points on Memphis and move closer to 2nd place.

As said by the USL commentary group for tonight’s match Leo “The Samba Man” Fernandes is the Man Of The Match and just hand him the league MVP now. No one is playing better than the Brazilian star in the league.

Photo Credit to Morgan Tencza @morgantencza on Twitter

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