Rowdies win again — and Pickens reaches a milestone

Will we ever get tired of the "Rowdies win again" headline? Probably not.

click to enlarge Neill Collins celebrates his goal against Harrisburg. Collins, a defender, is known for scoring with his head, but scored his first goal with his feet since 2015. - Colin O'Hara
Colin O'Hara
Neill Collins celebrates his goal against Harrisburg. Collins, a defender, is known for scoring with his head, but scored his first goal with his feet since 2015.

Penalty saves, his special relationship with his goalposts and — of course — the beard. Matt Pickens has spent the last three years with Tampa Bay and reached a significant milestone, showing his bearded face for 100 matches as of Saturday night — and securing a 3-0 while he was at it.

“I just try to live in the moment. Try to live week by week. That’s life man,” Pickens said after partying in the rafters with Ralph’s Mob, who honored him with a portrait hung from the roof of Al Lang.

Pickens has been a reliable mainstay in a sport where loyalty is bought and sold with little regard. But that’s his nature. This is the second time in his career he has reached a 100-appearance milestone, capping the honor in Colorado shortly before transferring to Tampa Bay in 2014.

For a man who starts each match with a sweet loving kiss to each of his goalposts, he’s characterized by his righteous beard and has been portrayed by fans as a manic touch guy with no fear. The only thing in life to fear is his beard.

click to enlarge Matt Pickens thanks Ralph's Mob after the match as they display their banner (or tifo) in his honor. Pickens made his 100th appearance for the Rowdies on Saturday. - Colin O'Hara
Colin O'Hara
Matt Pickens thanks Ralph's Mob after the match as they display their banner (or tifo) in his honor. Pickens made his 100th appearance for the Rowdies on Saturday.

Pickens celebrated his 100th match with a 3-0 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders. Pickens was not called on much in the game, but his teammates praised him nonetheless.

“Matt has been a very good servant,” defender Niell Collins said. “People see saves and stuff like that as the most important part of his job, but tonight he passed it out well, kept it well, fielded the ball well. It’s good for him to get a nice night to mark a landmark for him. I’m very pleased for him.”

Collins had a landmark moment in the match as well.

The first goal came from him, a defender known for scoring goals with his head, when he scored a goal with his feet for the first time in years.

Collins was in the right place at the right time and smashed the ball into the net from about eight inches away.

“It wasn’t the closest in I’ve scored from, but it was close and I couldn’t miss. It was a good way to start the game for us,” Collins said.

It may have been a while, but Collins assured us he has scored with his feet before.

“It’s been a long time coming actually. I’ve scored a lot of goals in my career with my head, but you’d be surprised by a couple of the goals I scored with my feet, but tonight was one of the easiest.”

In case you’re wondering, Collins said his last foot-scored goal came in his 200th appearance for Sheffield United on November 14, 2015. He recommended I look it up and I did. Feast it for yourself at the 52 second mark of this video:


The Rowdies are now on a three-match win streak and a five-match unbeaten streak, a string of matches where they have allowed only one goal (thanks, Pickens). But this can be credited to more than just goalkeeping.

“The guys in front of him make sure he has a pretty easy night,” Coach Stuart Campbell said.

Some noteworthy mentions: Rowdies midfielder Joe Cole was subbed out in the seventh minute of play due to an injury. He was seen wearing a full-body wrap but appeared OK. Campbell said it was a back injury, but they do not know the extent of its severity.

Damion Lowe made his first appearance since returning from his silver-medal performance at the Gold Cup. He remained an integral part of the defense and in securing the 3-0 win.

Walter Restrepo scored his first goal as a member of the Rowdies in his third appearance. Restrepo entered the match in the 79th minute and scored 14 minutes later.

“He promised me that yesterday actually,” Campbell said. “He said yesterday he will score today, so I reminded him of that before he came on — and he duly obliged.”

Rowdies travel away from home next weekend, but will be back at Al Lang on August 19 to face Ottawa. 

About The Author

Colin O'Hara

Colin O'Hara, Intrepid Sports Reporter, writes about sports for Creative Loafing and is the only CL writer ever  banned from a certain Croatian stadium, which makes him sort of a bad-ass. Follow him as he Tweets smart-ass sports shit...
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