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Rowdies’ Georgi Hristov gets hat trick in big win over Strikers

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Geogi, Georgi, Georgi.

Say it three times, one for each goal scored by the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ forward on Saturday night against the rival Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Rowdies won 4-1, moving into seventh place in the NASL. They still have a shot at the playoffs.

Georgi Hristov scored the first hat trick in the history of the Rowdies in the win. It was a bit more bad news for Fort Lauderdale, whose future is in financial doubt.

Hristov scored in the 15th, 43rd and 83rd minutes to ignite Tampa Bay.

“I feel great,” Hristov said. “I feel great about the three points first and foremost. I’ve always said it’s about the team first. I’m happy for the three goals, but it wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for my teammates. We had some great chances. Carlos should’ve had that last one himself. We played really well tonight against a good team.

Tampa Bay won all three meetings with Fort Lauderdale this season. The Rowdies have a five-game unbeaten streak.

“It was a huge game for us not just because it’s the Rowdies against the Strikers, but because of the importance to the playoff chase,” Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell said. “We spoke about how important this game was and we’re absolutely delighted to come away with three points.”

Tommy Heinemann put the Rowdies ahead in the 36th minute, receiving a lovely through ball from Justin Chavez and chipping it over Fort Lauderdale goalkeeper Bruno to put Tampa Bay up 2-1.

“We knew the Strikers would come out and put us under pressure early on in the second half, which they did,” Campbell said. “We stood firm, we withstood the pressure and were real men tonight.”

Tampa Bay’s win, paired with a 3-1 Ottawa Fury FC win over Minnesota United FC, sees the Rowdies move to within a point of fourth place in the Combined Standings and a berth in the playoffs. The Rowdies entered the weekend four points behind the Loons and tied on points with Miami FC and the Strikers. All three of those teams lost.

The Rowdies now return home for a huge showdown with Miami FC at Al Lang Stadium next Saturday night.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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