The Tampa Bay Rowdies suffered a 2-0 loss on Saturday night against USL Eastern Conference leaders Charleston Battery. Two second-half goals by the home side lifted Charleston to earn the three points on a hot evening in South Carolina.
“It’s embarrassing to concede in the manner that we did,” commented Rowdies head coach Stuart Campbell. “I thought we had the game controlled and then they go and score two easy goals on us.”
The first chance of the night for the Rowdies came in the 13th minute after midfielder Darwin Jones got past his man and rifled a shot straight to Battery goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper.
Charleston had a dangerous chance in the 39th minute when Tah Anunga beat the Rowdies backline and had back-to-back chances denied by Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
There wasn’t more to the first half, where most of the match was contested in the midfield, with both teams fighting for possession.
Despite having a solid start to the second half, the Rowdies continued to struggle to find chances in the final third with the Battery’s defense holding strong.
After withstanding the pressure, Charleston got their first chance of the second half in the 68th minute. Forward Romario Williams was at the end of a perfect cross, but before he could get a shot off at the far post, Pickens closed down the angle and jumped on the ball to put the fire out.
Williams would get his revenge in the 70th minute, sneaking past the Rowdies backline after a great through ball by midfielder Maikel Chang. After getting past a stretched-out Pickens, the Jamaican international calmly slotted the ball into the net. Williams scored his 14th goal of the USL season, extending his lead in the Golden Boot race.
With the Rowdies struggling to find the equalizer, the final blow came in the 81st minute.
Minutes after coming off the bench, forward Heviel Cordoves beat the Rowdies backline and went in one-on-one with Pickens. The Rowdies goalkeeper was unable to get a touch on the Cuban’s shot and Charleston went up 2-0 with under just under ten minutes left.
Rowdies midfielder Joe Cole was close to cutting Tampa Bay’s deficit to one, but his header off a Georgi Hristov cross went inches wide of the far post.
With the match in extra time, Pickens was called upon again, this time stretching out to make a great save on a dangerous shot by defender O’Brian Woodbine.
“We need to bounce back on Thursday night, especially with the match being at home,” said Campbell. “Cincinnati are a good team, but we need to go out there and show some character in front of our great fans.”