On a beautiful and humid Florida night, the Tampa Bay Rowdies made the club’s first trip to Orlando since a 2014 U.S. Open Cup defeat to Orlando City SC. This occasion was a USL Regular Season matchup between Eastern Conference foes – the Rowdies and Orlando City B.
These two teams met in the season opener on March 25 at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg with Tampa Bay winning 1-0 thanks a 57th minute goal from the penalty spot by Georgi Hristov, the club’s all-time modern era leading goal scorer. It was Tampa Bay’s first win in seven tries against professional clubs in the Orlando City SC family.
After the two teams exchanged good chances in the first ten minutes the game settled into a rhythm.
Tampa Bay sat deep but was able to create a few chances off of quick breaks and counter-attacks. In Minute 21, Martin Patterson was able to put the Rowdies ahead on a clean finish. Patterson, who formerly played for Orlando City SC in MLS was assisted on the goal by English compatriot Joe Cole, a playing legend of the sport.
Orlando came into the game well late in the first half creating multiple opportunities to equalize but the final ball was missing and creative spark lacking in the final third. Richie Larreya and Tony Rocha both had good looks on goal for Orlando but missed the target.
The good midfield play from Orlando continued in the early stages of the second half, but ideas were lacking once again in the critical areas of the pitch. But a breakthrough didn’t come and eventually both sides began to stagnate in midfield.
Hadji Berry in minute 72 had a great chance to equalize for Orlando but decided to go it alone rather than centering a ball for Ben Polk or Larreya. Then in minute 77 Barry found Orlando Captain Lewis Neal whose near post shot was deflected out of play.
Then in second half stoppage time Orlando’s Timbo, who had been influential all night, whipped in a cross that should have been met by any number of Orlando attacking players surging toward the Rowdies goal line but somehow the ball slipped through everyone and drifted harmlessly away for a goal kick.
As it looked like the opportunities for Orlando would result in nothing, Larreya drew a foul in the area and second half substitute Danny Deakin sent Tampa Bay keeper Matt Pickens the wrong way to level the score at 1-1. The Rowdies thought they had grabbed a late winner from Martin Vingaard but it was waved off by the referee for being offside and the match ended 1-1.
Orlando City B Head Coach Anthony Pulis was pleased with his team’s effort but felt like his team left two points on the table. Orlando’s 62% possession advantage throughout the match and outshooting Tampa Bay 9-4 indicates that Pulis’ team did in fact have the better of the play.
Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell lamented the injuries his team suffered as all three substitutions were enforced by knocks picked up to starters.