The Tampa Bay Rowdies cruised into the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 3-0 win over the Jacksonville Armada U23s at Al Lang Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Open Cup is a knockout tournament featuring teams from all levels of the American soccer system, including qualifying amateur clubs.
Kyle Porter, Alex Morrell and Martin Paterson scored the goals for Tampa Bay as the Rowdies moved on in the competition.
Tampa Bay now advances to face either Miami FC (NASL) or the South Florida Surf (PDL) in the Third Round on May 31. Those two teams play Wednesday night. Should Miami FC win, the Rowdies will have to travel to Miami. Should the Surf win, the match will be played at Al Lang.
“I thought it was a really, really professional performance by the team,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We went out and got the job done, which was to win the game and get into the next round. … The game is done and dusted and we have games coming up in the league so we’ll shift our focus to that now.”
Playing an opponent from the fourth-tier NPSL, the Rowdies didn’t have to wait long to claim a lead.
With the ball at his feet on the right sideline, Porter spotted Jacksonville goalkeeper Juan Fajardo off his line and took an audacious shot that Fajardo got a touch to, but couldn’t keep from going over the line for a 1-0 Rowdies lead in just the third minute.
Up a goal, the Rowdies dominated the remainder of the first half, but didn’t double their lead until the 43rd minute when Morrell stole the ball off an Armada U23 defender and raced toward goal before beating Fajardo from a sharp angle for a 2-0 lead.
“Luckily, the guy had a bad pass and I picked it off,” Morrell said. “I made the most out of it and scored on my old keeper from college. That was nice.”
Paterson finished the scoring in the 68th minute, tapping in a low cross from Darwin Jones for his second goal of the season in all competitions.
The result was never really in doubt, particularly after Jacksonville was reduced to 10 men in the 62nd minute when Dener Dos Santos was shown a red card. The Rowdies took six shots on target and didn’t allow a single one from Jacksonville.
It was Tampa Bay’s seventh clean sheet in 10 matches in all competitions.
Head Coach Stuart Campbell made a handful of changes to his team for the match, including selecting defender Tamika Mkandawire and midfielder Keith Savage for their first starts of the season. Defender Zac Portillos came off the bench in the second half for his first appearance of 2017.
“I made a lot of changes, because I didn’t have much choice playing Saturday, Tuesday, Friday, but on the other hand, I was delighted that I got the opportunity to give players minutes that haven’t had any,” Campbell said. “It’s tough for me not to play everybody, but it’s great that I could play guys that really, really deserved to start. They showed what great professionals they are.”
Up next, the Rowdies turn their focus back to USL league play with a short turnaround before visiting Toronto FC II on Friday night. The Rowdies beat TFC II 4-0 on April 1. Tampa Bay then visits the Rochester Rhinos next week before returning home to host Saint Louis FC in St. Petersburg on May 27.