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Rowdies eliminated in U.S. Open Cup play

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Well, that didn’t last long.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies hopes of contending for the US Open Cup were ended quickly and scorelessly Wednesday night when the team lost a 1-0 decision to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Pittsburgh broke a scoreless tie in stoppage time when Rob Vincent blasted a shot into the lower right hard corner of the net.

Vincent had stumbled as he crossed the midfield stripe, then regained his balance and shot, the ball eluding goalkeeper Matt Pickens.

The Rowdies compete in the NASL, a league generally regarded as superior to Pittsburgh’s USL. But after flirting with a goal several times in the early going, Tampa Bay seemed to be holding on to keep the Riverhounds at bay.

“You’ve got to give Pittsburgh a lot of credit,” Rowdies coach Thomas Rongen told reporters at the game. “They clearly deserved to win. It’s pretty startling to me that we can play such a great game against Fort Lauderdale and such a mediocre game here. We’re extremely disappointed,but we have to move on and learn from this.”

Despite that, the game seemed headed for extra time until Pittsburgh forced a turnover at midfield to lead to Vincent’s goal, a shot from 25 feet.

For the Rowdies, the match resurrected a familiar problem. It was the third time this season the Rowdies have been shut out, although the first two were both scoreless ties. The Rowdies are tied for second in the NASL standings, but they are only the seventh highest scoring team.

Last week, Rongen said he did not think his team was having finishing its runs, however. He predicted it would have a breakout game scoring soon.

Pittsburgh, which had defeated West Virginia 3-0 in the second round, now will host D.C. United in the third week of June.

Perhaps that will come on Saturday, when the Rowdies travel to play Indy City, the last-place team in the NASL.

“I’m very happy the next game comes so quickly,” Rongen said. “The team is very disappointed, as is the coaching staff, at the way we performed. We’ve got to get it out of our system.”

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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