By JEFF HERNDEN
For the second match in a row, the Tampa Bay Rowdies found themselves trailing at the half due to a slow start and an early concession. This time, though, the Rowdies were not able to replicate Last week’s second half performance to find a way past the Rochester Rhinos’ dogged defense.
The Rowdies started the match in their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation, with only two changes from their 3-1 victory at Toronto FC II on Friday. Michael Nanchoff replaced Joe Cole, who did not travel, in the attacking center-mid role, while Martin Vingaard came in for the injured Justin Chavez in the holding midfield role.
Tampa Bay started the match slow, allowing Rochester to claim an early edge in possession, resulting in the Rhino’s 27th minute goal. Coming off a corner kick, Rhinos midfielder Wal Fall pounced on a rebound from a fine Matt Pickens save to put the Rhinos ahead.
Over the next ten minutes, the Rowdies began to chip away at Rochester’s possession, earning two quick corners taken by Nanchoff, with Neill Collins putting a header on target and forcing goalkeeper Tomas Gomez into a strong save.
The final ten minutes of the half saw the Rowdies slowly gain a foothold in the match, finishing the half with a 52 percent edge. Overall, The Rowdies finished the half with a slight statistical advantage, with four shots (one on target) compared to three shots for the Rhinos (two on target), and the Rowdies completing 79 percent of their 247 passes, compared to the Rhinos 76 percent from 226 passes.
Despite going down a goal, the Rowdies remained committed to their possession style. This possession however, was largely stymied by Rochester’s five-man defensive bunker.
The first notable event of the second half was Damion Lowe’s 55th minute yellow card. The booking was his fifth of the season, meaning he will be suspended for Saturday’s home match against St. Louis on Saturday.
Coach Stuart Campbell tried to counter the Rhinos’ five-man defense with long diagonal passing. In the 63rd minute, Campbell went to the bench for the first time, bringing on Alex Morrell at right wing for Darwin Jones. Only four minutes later, Campbell also brought on Martin Paterson as a second striker, switching to a 4-4-2 in an effort to bring more energy into the attack.
Tampa Bay’s late attacking also meant that its defense opened up to a counter attack, with the Rhinos’ nearly doubling their lead in the 81st minute if not for a partial block from Lowe that was cleaned up by Pickens.
Despite dominating possession, the Rowdies’ attacking changes and throwing everything forward, they were unable to produce a late equalizer, ending their unbeaten run. Though the Rowdies played a strong XI in the match and Rochester put in a sturdy defensive showing, the squad turned in an overall disappointing display.
Tampa Bay returns to Al Lang on Saturday versus Preki’s St. Louis FC.