The Tampa Bay Rowdies are coming home three points richer after putting in an impressive showing in a 3-2 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders at FNB Field Wednesday night.
The Rowdies fell behind early, but then scored twice in three minutes to take a lead late in the first half. Harrisburg equalized on a big deflection just before halftime, but a Georgi Hristov penalty kick in the 68th minute settled things in Tampa Bay’s favor.
“I’m absolutely delighted to get the three points, but overall I thought our performance was outstanding,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We’ve had a couple games on the road where we haven’t had the points return we deserved, but it all kind of came together tonight.”
As the rain fell on a chilly night in central Pennsylvania, the Rowdies (11-8-7 (W-T-L), 41 points) got off to a slow start. Harrisburg had most of the scoring opportunities in the first half-hour and eventually made one count in the 31st minute.
Harrisburg’s Lee Nishanian found space at the back post on a City Islanders corner kick and scored to put his team ahead 1-0 half an hour in.
Tampa Bay fought back quickly though, with Hristov scoring his ninth-goal of the season in the 36th minute after a ball bounced around the box.
Just three minutes after pulling even, the Rowdies went ahead through a wondrous finish from Martin Paterson.
Paterson received the ball 30 yards from goal on the left flank and dribbled toward the corner of the box before unleashing a wicked curler from 22 yards out that bent around Harrisburg goalkeeper Brandon Miller and inside the far post to put the Rowdies ahead 2-1.
Tampa Bay’s lead wouldn’t survive to halftime, with Harrisburg’s Pedro Ribeiro equalizing in the last minute of the first half. Ribeiro’s shot from 30 yards took a big deflection that flat-footed Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens to tie the match at 2-2.
The Rowdies — who had only won one road match this season — put in an inspired second-half performance to pick up road win number two.
Alex Morrell drew a penalty kick in the 68th minute which Hristov converted for a 3-2 lead.
“It feels great to score twice, but most importantly we got the three points,” Hristov said. “It was a tough game for us … We came back strong in the second half. We had a good talk in the locker room at halftime and I’m glad we got the three points we deserved.”
Tampa Bay could’ve scored a few more goals if not for a great performance by Miller, who made five saves to keep the City Islanders (6-6-14, 24 points) in the match.
“I think we could have probably had five or six goals if it wasn’t for (Miller),” Campbell said. “The attitude of the players has been great all season but we haven’t quite gotten the bounces. Tonight, it was a cold, wet night in Harrisburg and we fought for the jersey and got three points to bring back home.”
Now, the Rowdies return home for a long break from play. Tampa Bay’s match in Bethlehem on Saturday has been postponed due to Hurricane Irma’s arrival in Florida, meaning the Rowdies don’t play again until September 23 against the Charlotte Independence.
Harrisburg: Lee Nishanian — 31st minute (assisted by Jonathan Mendoza)
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov — 36th minute (assisted by Justin Chavez)
Rowdies: Martin Paterson — 38th minute (assisted by Marcel Schäfer)
Harrisburg: Ropapa Mensah — 45th minute (assisted by Pedro Ribero)
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov — 68th minute (Penalty Kick)
Harrisburg: Mouhamed Dabo — 9th minute
Harrisburg: Cardel Benbow — 51st minute
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov — 57th minute
Harrisburg: Freddie Opoku — 58th minute
Harrisburg: Jonathan Mendoza — 67th minute
Rowdies: Justin Chavez — 75th minute
Harrisburg: Tiago Calvano — 89th minute
Rowdies XI (4-3-3): GK Matt Pickens; D Darnell King, Hunter Gorskie, Neill Collins, Zac Portillos; M Joe Cole (c), Justin Chavez, Marcel Schäfer; F Alex Morrell (Walter Restrepo 72′), Martin Paterson (Sebastian Guenzatti 85′), Georgi Hristov
Harrisburg XI: GK Brandon Miller; D Shawn McLaws, Tiago Calvano, Travis Brent (Mike Olla 84′), Lee Nishanian; M Mouhamed Dabo, Pedro Ribiero, Freddie Opoku (Danny DiPrimo 84); F Jonny Mendoza (Paul Wilson 74′), Ropapa Mensah, Cardel Benbow