Suffering the first home defeat of the season Saturday night, the Tampa Bay Rowdies lost 3-2 to the visiting Charleston Battery on an 89th-minute goal.
Tampa Bay led in the first half and then conceded twice in the last five minutes to trail 2-1 at halftime. The Rowdies pulled even in the second half but conceded in the 89th minute to lose.
“I’m disappointed in the goals that we conceded,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We’ve been so good defensively home and away this year and the three goals we gave away tonight, that’s not us.”
Playing their third match in eight days, the Rowdies looked fatigued as the minutes ticked along in each half.
Tampa Bay played on the road at Louisville City FC last weekend and on the road against Wednesday night against FC Cincinnati before returning home to cap a taxing week of travel and games.
“It was a very tough week for us, playing three games with all the travel,” Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov said. “I think we felt a little tired tonight. Some guys played all 270 minutes in the games. That’s a lot to play with the travel. It’s not an excuse, though. We should have done better.”
After a scoreless opening half-hour, the Rowdies dominated — apart from scoring — Joe Cole put Tampa Bay ahead in the 34th minute, smashing home a rebound after his initial shot was saved.
In the 39th minute, Rowdies right back Kyle Porter was whistled for a foul just outside the Rowdies’ box. On the ensuing Justin Portillo free kick, the Battery’s Forrest Lasso glanced a header to the back post beyond Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens to level the match.
Charleston took a lead in stoppage time when Maikel Chang fired a left-footed shot from outside the box that curled past Pickens and into the far netting.
Trailing at halftime, the Rowdies went all-out to reverse the match, inserting Leo Fernandes and Deshorn Brown early in the second half. Brown replaced Porter, with Tampa Bay switching to a back three.
The all-out attack worked, with Hristov leveling the match in the 62nd minute with his fourth goal of the season. Battery goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper whiffed on clearing a Leo Fernandes free kick, with Hristov the beneficiary in the 6-yard box.
“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.”
As the match wound toward its conclusion, the Rowdies looked likelier to score the game-winning goal only for the Battery to swipe all three points with a late goal.
Pickens saved an 89th-minute shot and Rowdies left back Luke Boden stretched to clear the rebound, but could only poke it to the penalty spot, where Tah Brian Anunga was waiting. Anunga placed his shot into the side netting to put Charleston ahead 3-2.
Tampa Bay hosts Richmond Kickers Saturday night at Al Lang.
Tampa Bay: Joe Cole — 34th minute
Charleston: Forrest Lasso — 40th minute (assisted by Justin Portillo)
Charleston: Maikel Chang — 45+ minute
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov — 62nd minute
Charleston: Tah Brian Anunga — 89th minute
Charleston: Romario Williams — 37th minute
Charleston: Forrest Lasso — 61st minute
Charleston: O’Brian Woodbrine — 62nd minute
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1) — GK Matt Pickens; D Kyle Porter (Deshorn Brown 66′), Damion Lowe, Neill Collins, Luke Boden; M Marcel Schäfer, Martin Vingaard; M Alex Morrell (Leo Fernandes 56′), Joe Cole (Martin Paterson 80′), Darwin Jones; F Georgi Hristov.
Charleston XI (4-5-1): GK Odisnel Cooper; D Quinton Griffith, Taylor Mueller (c), Forrest Lasso, O’Brian Woodbine; M Maikel Chang, Justin Portillo, Tah Brian Anunga, Kotaro Higashi (Dante Marini 73′), Ataulla Guerra (Neveal Hackshaw 88′); F Romario Williams (Heviel Cordoves 70′).