The disappointing road form that hampered the Rowdies in the Spring Season reared its ugly head again in the club’s fist away match of the Fall Season. The Rowdies held the statistical edge in many categories in San Antonio, but none of that mattered as the Scorpions were able to torch the Rowdies 3-0.
The loss puts an end to the club’s eight game unbeaten and three game winning streaks. The match was also the first time that the Rowdies defense allowed more than two goals in 2015.
The Rowdies came out with a lot of positive energy to start the match, just as they did in their 3-1 win in San Antonio to open the season. Brian Shriver barely missed the frame only five minutes into the match for the club’s first missed opportunity of the night.
Tampa Bay continued to dominate the opening 10 minutes until disaster struck in the 11th minute. The Scorpions had one clear advantage in the match – speed – and they exploited that to devastating effect on all three of their goals. Forward Omar Cummings picked out midfielder Marvin Chavez in the center of the field and 20 yards from goal. Right back Darnell King failed to effectively shut down Chavez as he cut inside and fired off a low shot past a diving Matt Pickens.
After the initial goal, the Rowdies regained composure and kept the ball in San Antonio’s end for much of the half. Corey Hertzog had a golden opportunity to negate San Antonio’s early lead in the 16th minute. A bad giveaway left the speedy forward in a one-on-one with back up keeper Matt Cardone. Hertzog made the unfortunate decision to shoot from the top of the box and did not place his attempt far enough away from Cardone to challenge him. If Hertzog had waited one more second he would have seen a streaking Shriver to his left and could have taken advantage of the two-on-one. The Rowdies did not have another serious chance on goal in the half.
Shriver and Martin Nunez clearly had off nights, but Thomas Rongen elected to not make any changes at the half. For a brief moment it seemed as if his decision would pay off. The Rowdies pressed early and often in the opening minutes of the second half. Darwin Espinal had a brilliant curling shot from 22 yards out blocked by a diving Cardone in the 53rd minute.
Just one minute after Espinal’s strike, the Scorpions bit the Rowdies on another well executed counter from their two most lethal players. Billy Forbes raced down the left flank and delivered a perfect low cross to Cummings in front of goal and the forward pounced on the ball to beat Stefan Antonijevic and Pickens.
Cummings grabbed another tally in the 61st minute after connecting with a perfectly weight through ball from Rafael Castillo to split Antonijevic and Tamika Mkandawire. The center backs looked for an offside flag that never came and Cummings wisely to see which way Pickens leaned before deciding where to slot his effort.
Reinforcements in the form of Georgi Hristov and Maicon Santos arrived two minutes after the third goal. It wasn’t a momentum-shifting outing from Hristov, but he definitely had more of a positive impact than the virtually invisible Shriver.
The match was Santos’ first appearance since the infamous 2-2 draw in Indy back in the Spring. The Brazilian couldn’t get the Rowdies on the scoresheet, but he did provide a bit of spark in the final moments of the match. He drew a couple free kicks in dangerous areas, had a quality shot blocked, and even slid a superb ball across goal that third substitute Zak Boggs absolutely should have finished in the 81st minute.
Boggs’ miss is the root cause of the lopsided score line. The Scorpions were far from better in the run of play, but they were clinical in the few opportunities they produced. The Rowdies lacked potency in the final third all match. The back line’s inability to quell the counter attack put the club in a deep hole, but poor decision making, sloppiness and a general lack of urgency prevented it from getting back into the match.
The good news for the Rowdies is that they remain one point ahead of the New York Cosmos on the combined points table simply because the Cosmos were off this weekend. The even better news is that they get to regroup with a two game home stand against FC Edmonton and the Fort Lauderdale, who drew 1-1 this weekend. The Rowdies are still unbeaten at Al Lang this year with five wins and one draw.