The Rowdies clinched a playoff spot after defeating the Strikers 3-0 at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday night. With the win, Tampa Bay also was awarded the Coastal Cup for the third straight season. Rowdies goalkeeper Jeff Attinella picked up his ninth shutout of the season and his 14th clean sheet of his career.
“We know we didn’t play our best in the first half, but at the break we were able to regroup,” said Rowdies Captain Frankie Sanfilippo. “It was a great shutout and we got the three points to clinch the playoffs. We want to keep on winning and play like we did in the last 45 minutes in order to now clinch the First Round Bye.”
The Rowdies opened the scoring in the 78th minute after second half substitute Raphael Cox deflected defender Takuya Yamada’s header into the net. This was Cox’s first goal since joining the Rowdies.
Tampa Bay’s defender Sanfilippo added to the score in the 82nd minute after a great individual run past the Strikers defense. Newcomer forward Carl Cort scored in the 90th minute to seal the 3-0 Rowdies victory. Forward Mike Ambersley placed a great through ball to Cort who scored off his own rebound for his first goal in the NASL.
“There is no greater feeling than scoring a goal,” said Cort. “It has been a long time and I have worked hard for this moment. I came on off the bench and I was able to help the team win and now it is a matter practicing hard during the week in order to assist the team in any way I can.”
Through the first 10 minutes of play both teams shared position of the ball, with Tampa Bay looking to enter the Strikers box and getting a shot. The Rowdies earned the first corner of the match in the 13th minute but Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser punched out the cross.
At the 19th minute, Ft. Lauderdale’s midfielder Michael Tetteh received a red card after being sent off for retaliation and violent conduct.
The Rowdies tried to control the possession with the man advantage but the Strikers defense did a good job in covering the open spaces. Tampa Bay forward Fafa Picault had multiple chances to score as the half came to a close.
In the 41st minute Picault took a shot from about 20 yards out but Glaeser dove to his right and sent the ball out for a corner. In the 44th minute Picault had another chance on goal after a perfect cross by midfielder Evans Frimpong, but his header from inside the 6-yard box went wide left.
In the 52nd minute Attinella was called to action when Strikers forward Mark Anderson had powerful shot from inside 18-yard box but the Rowdies goalkeeper denied the goal.
After coming on in the 55th minute, Cox scored after deflecting Yamada’s header. His deflection went in at the far post, catching Glaeser off guard giving the Rowdies the 1-0 lead in the 78th minute.
In the 82nd minute, the Rowdies scored the second goal of the night, after Sanfilippo entered the 18-yard box after a great individual run. His shot trickled by Glaeser for the defender’s second goal of the year.
“The principles never change no matter how many players they have on the pitch,” said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. “Our responsibility is to move the ball quickly and accurately and after the half we started to do that. At half time I told the players that we had to keep a clean sheet and if we kept moving the ball, spaces were going to open up as the game went on. We looked for that first goal throughout the match and we are grateful for Cox’s deflection that ended up opening the scoring.”
In the 90th minute Cort received a great through pass from Ambersley, leaving him one-on-one with Glaeser. His initial shot was blocked, but Cort scored off the rebound.
The Rowdies are now undefeated in 11 of the 12 meetings against the Strikers since the return in 2010.
The Rowdies return to action next Saturday, when they host the Atlanta Silverback on September 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Al Lang Stadium in Downtown St. Petersburg.
Tampa Bay Rowdies: Raphael Cox - 78th minute (assisted by Takuya Yamada)
Tampa Bay Rowdies: Frankie Sanfilippo - 82nd minute
Tampa Bay Rowdies: Carl Cort - 90+ minute
Ft. Lauderdale: Lance Laing - 2nd minute
Tampa Bay: Andres Arango - 20th minute
Tampa Bay: Fafa Picault - 53rd minute
Ft. Lauderdale: Tony Stahl - 53rd minute
Tampa Bay: Frankie Sanfilippo - 59th minute
Tampa Bay: Daniel Scott - 88th minute
Ft. Lauderdale: Michael Tetteh - 19th minute
Tampa Bay Rowdies
GK Jeff Attinella, D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D JP Rodrigues, D Takuya Yamada, D Andres Arango (Daniel Scott 71'), M Evans Frimpong (Raphael Cox 55'), M Stuart Campbell, M Luke Mulholland, M Shane Hill, F Fafa Picault (Carl Cort 55'), F Mike Ambersley
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers
GK Matt Glaeser, D Toni Stahl (Captain), D Nickardo Blake, D Lance Laing, D Scott Gordon, M Alfonso Motagalvan, M Pecka (Hosman Ramos 74'), M Conor Shanosky, M Michael Tetteh, F Abe Thompson (Andy Herron 45'), F Mark Anderson
Tampa Bay: 10 shots (7 shots on goal), 4 save, 15 fouls, 6 corners, 2 offsides
Ft. Lauderdale: 10 shots (4 shot on goal), 4 saves, 7 fouls, 1 corners, 2 offsides