A pair of late goals by a few Luciano Olguin and Amani Walker lifted the host Tampa Bay Rowdies past the Fort Lauderdale Strikers 3-1 on Friday night at Al Lang Stadium.
Olguin, signed by the club this week, scored on his debut in the 88th minute, just before Walker, seeing his first action since tearing his ACL last year, scored a minute later to secure the victory. The Rowdies have never lost to the Strikers on the Fourth of July, with four wins and a draw in the modern era.
Playing on the new field at Al Lang Stadium for the first time, the match started slowly with few chances for either side in the opening fifteen minutes. The Rowdies managed to open the scoring in the 20th minute after forward Casey Townsend was played through impressively by trialist Ricardo Morris. Townsend was left one-on-one with the Strikers keeper and finished coolly with a low shot to the far post.
The Strikers equalized in the 36th minute through a Manny Gonzalez shot. Gonzalez got the ball at the top of the box and fired it past Rowdies goalkeeper Cody Mizell, who was able to push it onto the crossbar, but unable to keep it out of the net. The goal came slightly against the run of play as the Rowdies were gaining steam and continuing to threaten the Ft. Lauderdale goal.
The second half saw fewer chances than the first but a more even share of the possession. The Strikers looked more dangerous as time went on and forced Rowdies substitute goalkeeper Matt Pickens to make two great saves twenty minutes into the first half.
Olguin and Walker entered the match in the 63rd minute.
The Strikers saw more chances throughout the second half and were denied by the outstanding play of Matt Pickens. However, the Rowdies managed to pull ahead on one of their few chances of the half in the 88th minute. Midfielder Evans Frimpong ran down the right flank and crossed a ball to the far post for Olguin to finish his Rowdies debut in the perfect way.
Soon after, Walker sealed the win for the Rowdies with a goal in the 89th minute. Frimpong notched his second assist of the night as he crossed a ball into the box that got through several Strikers players before Walker could slot it home from the back post.