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Bench Takes: No Leaks for the Rowdies on Defense

The gameday roster that you saw the Tampa Bay Rowdies put out to face Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday was basically every player the Rowdies had to offer. Leo Fernandes, Mustapha Dumbuya, and Max Lachowecki were all out with injuries, meaning every available outfield player was in the starting lineup or on the bench.

Lewis Hilton, Jordan Doherty, and Dominic Oduro all remained in their spots in central midfield. The trio has now started together in four straight matches and look to be developing a good partnership.

Zach Steinberger got his first start since July 17, although it was not in his normal central midfield position. He started out on the right wing instead and indirectly set up the Rowdies’ first goal by maintaining possession under tough pressue before finding Lewis Hilton, who then earned the corner kick that led to the Rowdies. Sebastian Dalgaard got his second straight start and ended up going the full 90 minutes on the left wing. It’s the first time we’ve seen Dalgaard play out on the left side, as opposed to on the right where he’s been placed before. Initially the Rowdies signed Dalgaard in the offseason with the intention of him competiting with Ferandes for that left winback spot, so Wednesday was a reminder of that.

Luckily, what they had was enough to secure a 2-0 victory and widen their lead in Group H standings with 17 points. Third place Atlanta (5 points, 8 matches played) will try to rebound this Saturday as they travel to face second place Charleston Battery (8 points, 6 matches played). The Rowdies will host last place Miami FC (0 points, 3 matches play) at Al Lang this Sunday.

Set Pieces, Set Pieces, Set Pieces

Set piece goals for the Rowdies in back-to-back matches? If the general state of the world wasn’t what it is, we’d say we must be living in blessed times to see such a thing happen.

The Rowdies needed this goal through the first corner kick of night, for sure. They looked to be dragging at times in the first half hour against Atlanta, who held the ball for long stretces and had the only close chances on goal. As a result, the Rowdies struggled to get Kyle Murphy and Sebastian Guenzatti involved much. Between them, the two starting forwards had only one touch inside Atlanta’s box all night.

“First 30 minutes, Atlanta were definitely the better team… I thought they outpossessed us and we looked sluggish,’ Neill Collins said. “The water break was obviously a chance to make a bit of a change, and a set piece got us into the game. Then in the second half, credit to the players, their effort levels and their energy was excellent. I thought we grew into the game and grew in confidence. I was pleased with the second half performances.” 

Forrest Lasso, though, proved all it takes is one chance and apparently one eye to get a goal.

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3 points & clean sheet 👌🏼Mission accomplished ✅ Nice treat opening my account as well. 👏🏼 to @Jordan_Doherty1 & @DominicOduro. Both were top class tonight and an integral part of the performance. See y’all Sunday #COYR 🔰And don’t worry, it’s just a minor flesh wound 😉 pic.twitter.com/ff2O3wtPr4

No Leaks in the Back

Another shutout for the Rowdies, bringing their total to four on the year. Sacramento, San Antonio, and the Rowdies are all tied for the most cleant sheets this season. It’s a welcome streak considering the easy goals that the club conceded in the first few matches back.

Even with Atlanta keeping possession for long periods, the Rowdies rarely looked rattled. The midfield helped contain Atlanta from finding a way through into the final third, instead forcing them rely on crosses. The hosts tried 17 crosses in the match, but only a couple of those found their target. Lasso, Jordan Scarlett and Aaron Guillen all expertly handled the service in their box. The trio combined for 22 total clearances in the match and Louro dealt with all four of Atlanta’s shot on net.

Scarlett might have had the most important defensive moment of the night. In the 18th minute, Guillen was way up the field trying to find a teammate with an unsuccessful pass inside Atlanta’s box. Atlanta regained possession and quickly tried to exploit the opportunity by launching a counter attack down the right wing. While Guillen sprinted back to recover, Lasso and Scarlett were left to cover by themselves. Lasso tried to hold up the speeding Diop as best he could, but the attacker got by him. Scarlett was caught in between trying to cover Diop as he streaked toward the box and Coleman Gannon as as he ran toward goal on his backside. Diop decided to cross for the open Gannon, but Scarlett swiftly slid in to block the shot and prevent Atlanta from taking an early lead.

Yann’s Back

Yannn Ekra has had a tough time getting his footing in 2020. As an underrated asset from last year, the Rowdies were hopeful that this would be a year for Ekra to shine even more without injury troubles that hampered him in 2019.

Unfortunatlely, that has not been the case. Ekra broke a bone in preseason and had to miss out on the season opener in New York. After recovering during the shutdown, Ekra was rewarded with a starting spot in the club’s first game back only to suffer a knock that forced him out at halftime. He returned to action as a 662nd minute substitution in the last home match against Charleston, but that was a forgettable shift as he struggled to assert himself.

On Wednesday, though, Ekra was exactly what the Rowdies were hoping for. Besides providing the assist on Tejada’s goal with a stellar through ball, Ekra was strong on the ball and aggressive along with the other substitutes in keeping Atlanta under pressure. If not for two clucth saves by Ben Lundgaard Ekra could have bagged a goal as well.

“I watched Atlanta and I thought this would be a great game for Yann at some stage. But it’s only a great game if he executes and he certainly did,” Collins said. “He could’ve had a goal, but just his general calmness and composure was good. I’ve always said it. When we’ve got Yann fit, he’s a great asset to the team. I’m really excited about having him back and getting him more opportunities. If he keeps playing like that it’s going to be exciting for our fans to watch.”

Whatever Happened to Brent Rambo?

We need to launch a full investigation intot the Rowdies celebration after the second goal. Was this pose by Lewis Hilton an intentional homage to the famous gif of 90s child model Brent Rambo enthusiastically giving a thumbs up  in an Apple commercial? Or was it total coincidence? Full credit to Mike Pendleton for being the first to spot Hilton’s dead-on likeness.

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ummmmmm https://t.co/xeO8IiD01P pic.twitter.com/WXtlRQz6Wp

I know there are bound to be some skeptics out there, and I may have been with you until this morning when I spotted this pic Juan Tejada posted on Twitter.

Still seem like a coincidence? Also, apologies to Tejada, who had an unbelievable finish to even give them a reason to celebrate, but Hilton wins this celebration hands down.

What famous gif or meme should the Rowdies recreate for their next celebration?

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