The perfect start ends; opponents challenge the Rowdies

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Alex Morrell received his first start of the season on Saturday. - Tampa Bay Rowdies
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Alex Morrell received his first start of the season on Saturday.

The clock has struck midnight on the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ fairytale start to the 2017 United Soccer League season. After a challenging road trip that dished the club its first loss of the season, the Rowdies fell at home for the first time this season on Saturday at the hands of Charleston.

Tampa Bay had not allowed a goal in its opening three matches this year prior to its trek to Louisville where a pitch better suited for baseball than a soccer field hosted the Rowdies’ first loss. The trip’s difficulty grew when Tampa Bay played another road match only four days later in Cincinnati, which is notorious for drawing crowds in excess of 20,000. A “wundergol” from former German international Marcel Schafer gave the Rowdies the lead, but couldn’t hang on in the end, settling for a 1-1 draw. But no one is using the heavy schedule as a reason for Saturday’s loss.

“That’s no excuse,” Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell said. “It was 100 percent lack of concentration.”

The match against Charleston began with a promising storyline that saw the Rowdies take the lead after Joe Cole cleaned up a rebound for the opening goal. Charleston struck back in quick succession with two goals of their own, sending Tampa Bay into the locker room down at half time.

An unexpected visitor took center stage early in the second half when the resident drunk college guy summoned his inner George Costanza and made his way onto the playing field. This bold pitch invader must have shared the same insecurities as Costanza, who also didn’t have the gull to remove his clothes before “streaking” before being quickly taken down by someone who appeared to be a Rowdies employee. The fully clothed “streaker” came crashing down after losing his shoe, which was also thrown off the field by Joe Cole who was not amused by the tired stunt. Neither was the crowd, who responded to the incident with “You’re an asshole” ringing through the stadium.

But something can be said for the stunt which must have lit a fire under the Rowdies. Georgie Hristov tied the match with his fourth goal of the season.

“We showed great character,” Campbell said. “We came back in the second half.”

Campbell made it clear he was not there for a draw, but a win. A rearrangement of the formation resulted in an attack-heavy team that was inching closer to a goal, but the plan backfired and opened the way for Charleston to score the game winner in the final minutes of the night.

“I took a gamble,” Campbell said. “I chucked every attacking option I had. We ended up with three strikers on, plus two wide men. We went for it because I would’ve been disappointed if we only got a point at home, so I went for it in the hope of getting three. It didn’t happen.”

Frustrated, maybe; but discouraged? Not at all. Campbell defended his decision and, as for the players? They're moving on.

“The good thing is we tried to win it,” Hristov said. “We weren’t satisfied with just tying the game. We will forget about it as quickly as we can and continue forward because we have a great team. We lost but there are 26 more games.”

The Rowdies will continue their homestand on Saturday night when they face Richmond who currently sit in ninth place with two wins and three losses.

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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