by JEFF HERNDEN
I know what you’re thinking. New season, same story; the Rowdies are two different teams home and away. To a certain extent, you’re right. The Rowdies do tend to play more reserved on the road, but I’m not quite sure that is due to tactical changes. Teams play the Rowdies differently on the rod. They play with a greater intensity than they do when they come to Al Lang. Without the crowd at Al Lang to energize them, the Rowdies struggle. But more on that later.
Can’t blame Head Coach Stuart Campbell for going with the same XI as he did in the win over the Real Monarchs. This match also went much the same way. The Rowdies conceded early possession, allowing Charleston to create chances, followed by a period of dominance. However, the difference this time was that the Rowdies committed the defensive error, with Hunter Gorskie getting muscled off the ball by the Battery’s Ataulla Guerra, who was then able to catch goalkeeper Cody Mizell with an obstructed view and capitalize with a powerful shot just before the break. Offensively, the Rowdies were not able to create much in the way of quality chances, with notable exceptions being some excellent dribbling and a give-and-go between Leo Fernandes and Georgi Hristov midway through the first half and a Neill Collins header on target in the final minutes.
Defensively, the Rowdies did play quite well overall. Best of the bunch were Collins and midfielder Lance Rozeboom. Collins especially had an excellent game, keeping Battery forward Ian Svantesson while the whole defense limited Charleston to only four shots on target. The difference then between this game and the win at home versus the Monarchs: the Battery capitalized on a defensive error, and the Rowdies were not clinical with the few chances they created and struggled to defend set pieces.
Credit goes to Campbell for making substitutions early, with the introduction of Jochen Graf up front in the 61st minute, followed by Sebastian Guenzatti, and Junior Flemmings in the 68th and 80th respectively. Campbell went for it, and it nearly got the equalizer in the dying moments but just couldn’t pull it off. Overall, it wasn’t a bad performance, but it certainly wasn’t one of their best either.
My general concern, though, is that in these away matches, teams come at the Rowdies with a much greater intensity and energy than they do when playing at Al Lang. Meanwhile, the Rowdies therefore seem to be more lethargic and struggle to keep up. Now bear with me, but it’s not the system or style that is the worrying part when it comes to the road form. It’s the energy. My solution may be radical, or perhaps even blasphemous, but you can argue about it with me on Twitter. Let the young(er) guys play on the road. I’m seeing a midfield three made up of Rozeboom, Jack Blake and Michael Nanchoff, with Graf up front and Guenzatti on the right wing to start. Loads of energy, while keeping the system and structure the same.
Cody Mizell (GK): Overall a good game for Mizell. He worked through the early pressure but he and the back line struggled with set pieces. Credit to Guerra for the shot, but I can’t help think with his quality Mizell could have done a bit better with it. Player rating: 7/10
Zac Portillos (LB): Good night on the left side for Portillos. He did his job, defended well, and was able to get forward on occasion. Nothing to complain about, but also nothing overly worthy of high praise. Player rating: 7/10
Neill Collins (CB): One of Collins’ best performances that I have seen in a while. Despite the general difficulty the Rowdies had defending set pieces, Collins dominated his battle with Svantesson, completely neutralizing him as a threat. Man of the Match for this one. Player rating: 8/10
Hunter Gorskie (CB): Gorskie struggled in this one. In addition to a few poor clearances, he was muscled off the ball in the lead up to the Battery’s goal. He’s struggled on the road this season and his performances have been reflective of Tampa Bay’s performances – up and down. Quality player, but has been inconsistent. Player rating: 6/10
Kyle Curinga (RB): Seemed to suffer from some early nerves, with a few giveaways and struggled under pressure, especially early on. Between he and Gorskie, the right side of defense was was the weak spot. Player rating: 610
Lance Rozeboom (CM): Similar performance as against the Monarchs. Won tackles and was the bright spot of the midfield. He provided the most energy, which kept the Rowdies competitive as the match moved into the second half. Completed an impressive 33/33 of his passes. Player rating: 8/10
Marcel Schäfer (CM): Although Schäfer was able to contribute his usual crosses and create a few chances going forward, he was lacking his usual energy. Lost all four of his duels, didn’t win any tackles and didn’t draw (or concede) and fouls. Player rating: 6/10
© Joe Cole (CM – Subbed off 80′ – Flemmings): Against the Monarchs, we saw vintage Joe Cole. Against the Battery, it seemed as though he hadn’t quite recovered from the previous performance. He looked lethargic and completed barely 62% of his 22 passes in 80 minutes of play. In a match where we needed his creativity, he didn’t seem to have the energy to produce it. Player rating: 6/10
Leo Fernandes (LW – Subbed of 61′ – Graf): The bright spot of Fernandes’ day came between the 19′ and 23′ where he looked dangerous, especially in the 22′ off the dribble and an excellent exchange with Georgi. Only an excellent reaction save from the keeper kept him off the score sheet. But like the rest of the side, he showed only momentary energy. Player rating: 7/10
Michael Nanchoff (RW, Subbed off 68′ – Guenzatti): Another workman like night for Nanchoff. Being a left-footed player, he has a natural tendency to come in off the right, but he found himself coming completely across the field on several occasions and played centrally for much of his 68 minutes. With much of the Battery attack coming down the right side, he was often not there to provide cover for Curinga. Player rating: 6/10
Georgi Hristov(F): No shots, only one chance created in his 22′ 1-2 with Fernandes, and lost 8 of his 10 duels. To be fair, Georgi did not have much service, but he was not able to do much with the precious few touches his did have. Player rating: 8/10
Jochen Graf (F, Subbed on 61′ – Fernandes): Despite his usual energy, he was not able to produce any real threat going forward. Graf just couldn’t quite find a way past a stalwart Battery defense. Player rating 6/10
Sebastian Guenzatti (RW, subbed on 68′ – Nanchoff): Was able to produce 2 more shots in 22 minutes than Georgi and Graf were in a combined 119. Not saying much, considering Graf and Georgi combined for zero shots. Guenzatti’s speed provided a much needed outlet and energy going forward. Player rating: 7/10
Junior Flemmings (RW, subbed on 80′ – Cole): With the inclusion of Flemmings late, Campbell really went for it, essentially playing with 4 forwards in the end. Flemmings produced one shot (blocked) and completed all seven of his passes in 10 minutes of play. Player rating: NA/10
Unused Substitutes: Fitzgerald, Lachowecki, Mkandawire, Blake
Photo by Patrick Patterson/Unused Substitutes