The Tampa Bay Rowdies unleashed a three-goal barrage in a span of 14 minutes in the second half to post a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Toronto FC II Friday evening.
Joe Cole, Martin Paterson and Darwin Jones scored goals between the 68th and 82nd minute to lift the Rowdies (6-2-2 (W-T-L), 20 points) into first place in the Eastern Conference for at least one night.
“I thought the players showed tremendous character,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “It was a difficult first half for us, but the guys came in, we had a good chat at halftime, went back out and I thought we were absolutely outstanding in the second half. I think we thoroughly deserved the three points”
Toronto FC II’s Luca Uccello put the home team ahead in the 10th minute, besting the offside trap and then beating Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens one-on-one for a 1-0 lead.
It was just the second time this year the Rowdies have conceded the first goal of the match.
In previous matches, playing on the road, on turf and down a goal, the Rowdies may have wilted under the pressure.
Things were different Friday.
Before the first half ended, Tampa Bay began to tilt the field toward Toronto’s goal but couldn’t quite find the equalizer before the break.
In the second half, the Rowdies began to dominate.
Joe Cole pulled Tampa Bay even in the 68th minute, putting home a low cross from Darwin Jones, a goal that had been coming for a while.
Martin Paterson, coming off a midweek goal in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, entered the match in the 79th minute and scored exactly 21 second later, heading home a Neill Collins cross to put the Rowdies ahead.
“I’m delighted,” Paterson said. “(When I came on), I was very confident that we would create chances. I didn’t know if we would win, but I know we would create chances and it was up to us to put them away. If you watched the game, we had the clear-cut chances much more than them.”
Jones put the game out of reach for Toronto (1-3-5, 6 points) with a left-footed shot from outside the box that took a deflection before beating TFC II goalkeeper Angelo Cavalluzzo.
“It feels good because it was a hard-fought game,” Jones said. “I felt from the beginning of the game that we were going to win it. Our second half performance was good.”
The win lifts Tampa Bay into first place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Charleston Battery, which plays on the road against the Harrisburg City Islanders on Saturday night.
The Rowdies will be back on the road next week to take on the Rochester Rhinos on Wednesday night before returning home to face Saint Louis FC at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, May 27.
Toronto: Luca Uccello – 10th minute (Assisted by Sergio Camargo)
Rowdies: Joe Cole – 68th minute (Assisted by Darwin Jones)
Rowdies: Martin Paterson – 80th minute (Assited by Neill Collins)
Rowdies: Darwin Jones – 82nd minute (Assited by Joe Cole)
Toronto: Brandon Aubrey – 45th minute
Rowdies: Marcel Schäfer – 59th minute
Toronto: Ben Spencer – 62nd minute
Rowdies: Neill Collins – 63rd minute
Rowdies: Michael Nanchoff – 87th minute
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1): GK Matt Pickens; D Darnell King, Damion Lowe, Neill Collins, Luke Boden; M Justin Chavez (Michael Nanchoff 24′), Marcel Schäfer; M Darwin Jones, Joe Cole (c) (Martin Vingaard 87′), Georgi Hristov; F Deshorn Brown (Martin Paterson 80′)
Toronto FC II XI (3-5-1): GK Angelo Cavalluzzo; D Mitchell Taintor (C), Brandon Aubrey, Jelani Peters (Jeremy Onkony 46′); M Liam Fraser, Luca Uccello, Sergio Camargo (Brian James 75′), Oyvind Alseth, Ashtone Morgan (Ryan Telfer 61′); F Ben Spencer, Shaan Hundal.