A few days removed from their first defeat of the year, the Tampa Bay Rowdies got back in the win column in convcincing fashion with a 3-0 victory over Miami FC on Wednesday at Al Lang. Defender Jordan Scarlett opened up the scoring late in the first half, while veterans Sebastian Guenzatti and Leo Fernandes helped put the match out of Miami’s grasp with two more goals in the second half.
Rowdies head coach Neill Collins said on Tuesday he was hoping the Rowdies the fans have become accustomed to seeing this year and his players largely delivered on that.
“As a coach, when you have a disappointing result you obviously take it to heart,” Collins said. “I think you remember as a player how you’re desperate to get picked for the next game and get the opportunity to put it right. The players that got on the field tonight did that. There’s other guys in the stands itching to do the same going forward. A much improved performance and the result to match is always good.”
As they did in the losing effort in Charleston over the weekend, the Rowdies held the edge in possession. However, there was a bit more tempo and mindfulness with that possession from the Rowdies. Against Miami they put 5 of 14 shots on target, while they only guided just 1 of their 9 shots at Chalreton on goal.
Lewis Hilton and Scarlett nearly combined to for a go-ahead goal in the 17th minute. On their first corner of the night, Hilton played it short for a give-and-go with Sebastian Dalgaard and then fired in a cross that got past keeper Bryant Gammiero but took a deflection off a defender and bounced toward Scarlett on the back post. The bounce was just out of Scarlett’s head, though.
Scarlett didn’t come up short on his second chance at goal. In the 39th minute, Hilton played another fantastic corner kick toward the near post that Scarlett rose to meet and power back toward the ground to beat Gammiero.
Set pieces ended up being the story of the night. The Rowdies bagged their second of the night five minutes past the hour mark through a well-executed free kick. Fernandes initiated the sequence from deep in Miami’s right corner with a dangerous ball to the far post. Center back Forrest Lasso did well to get his body in front of the ball, preventing it from going out of play and sending it back across goal for an unmarked Guenzatti to head home.
Collins chalks up the set piece successes to two simple things — pinpoint passing and fearlessness in the box.
“It helps when you’ve got deliveries like what Lewis and Leo put in tonight and then you’ve got guys willing to attack the ball,” he said. “You can look at all the other stuff in between, which is important, but I always felt as a player that if you get the delivery right, that’s number one, and then you’ve got to have people brave to go and put their head on the ball. We had both of those things tonight and that was really good.”
That second goal proved crucial as it came just three minutes after Miami inserted proven attackers Romario Williams and Sebastian Velasquez. Guenzatti’s goal gave the Rowdies a needed boost to to keep Miami down before their got any ideas about mounting a comeback.
All of Collins’ substitutions also came through with important contributions Kyle Murphy, Juan Tejada, Max Lachowecki, Malik Johnson Jordan Doherty all came in with an energy and work rate to make it hard on Miami as the game wore on.
“Up until the 60 minute mark, I felt everything was really good. But you’re really mindful that players have put a lot of energy in,” Collins said. “Miami had a week to prepare and we’ve been to Charleston. As much as our lads are fit, that’s an extra 90 minutes and an 8-hour bus ride. So I thought to make the sub and the subs that came in really helped take the game home for us and that was really pleasing.”
Fernandes eventually got one of his own to seal the match in the 84th minute. Murphy earned a penalty when Jalen Markey took the striker down as he penetrated the box. Fernandes calmly deposited the conversion into the bottom right corner as Gammier dove the opposite way.
The win not only gives the Rowdies a tiny bit of breathing room over Charleston in the Group H standings, it also guarantees that Atlanta United 2 can’t finish above them in the standings no matter what happens the rest of the way. Another win this weekend coupled with another for Miami would clinch a postseason spot for the Rowdies. However, considering Miami is playing second-place Charleston, the Rowdies might actually be rooting for a Miami win in that contest.
Up next for the Rowdies this Sunday at Al Lang will be Philadelphia Union II, who fell 2-1 to Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday.