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Rowdies’ Matt Pickens shuts out another opponent in team’s 1-0 Cup victory

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One goal was plenty for the Tampa Bay Rowdies Wednesday night.

With Matt Pickens in goal, it usually is.

The Rowdies beat FC Cincinnati of the USL in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Wednesday night, winning 1-0 behind Pickens. The win means the Rowdies will play the Columbus Crew of the MLS next week.

Pickens was strong in net again for the victory, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Rowdies have won four games this season, and Pickens has shut out the opponent every time. That doesn’t even count his clean sheet (shutout) in the season-opening draw.

“In these little tournaments, we’re going to have to make a save here and there and absorb some pressure here and there,” Pickens said. “We held on to a 1-0 lead. We would’ve liked it to be two or three, but we’ve got a good defensive team. In my eyes, it’s a good thing to score 10 minutes into a game and defend them off for 80 minutes. Well done to the guys.

In Pickens’ four wins, the Rowdies have scored only five goals. Still, he has made it stand up.

“That’s the key, right?” Pickens said. “Get a shutout and we’re going to win.”

The Rowdies have lost to USL teams the last two years, falling to Orlando City and Pittsburgh.

“I’m delighted to be in the next round of the U.S. Open Cup,” Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell said. “From a selfish, personal standpoint, I love cup competitions. I had some success in them back in England, but I’ve had zero success with them over here as a player and as an assistant coach. Now as a head coach, I wanted to go out and win. It’s a completely different animal, playing in the cup.”

Georgi Hristov scored the Rowdies’ only goal in the 11th minute, the earliest the team has scored this year.

“Overall, I think it was a very good performance from the whole team,” Hristov said. “Honestly, it was really tough because of a long trip over the weekend, and we had a really short period of time to prepare for that game. … It’s always very difficult to play against USL teams, and we’ve lost those games the last two years. I’m very glad we’re going forward to play an MLS team.”

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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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