The NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies earned their first win of the 2014 preseason with a 3-0 shutout over the hosts University of Tampa Spartans at Pepin Stadium on Saturday evening.
"Overall it was a very good 90 minutes from the players," said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. "I think we approached the game in the right manner. Last week (2-2 draw against USF,) we were a week behind in terms of our physical capabilities. The players played to the right principles throughout the whole game and did some really nice things."
Midfielder Keith Savage staked the Rowdies to a lead inside five minutes off a cross from Evans Frimpong on the right wing. Savage's header hit the crossbar and ricocheted off the back of Spartans goalkeeper Norbert Bengyel and into the net.
The Rowdies dominated first-half possession with great combination play down the right wing between Anthony Wallace and Brian Shriver.
Hristov doubled Rowdies' lead in the 24th minute, deflecting a powerful Shane Hill shot from 30 yards out past Bengyel and into the net.
Hill made three substitutions at halftime and another six on the hour mark, but it didn't slow the Rowdies momentum.
"We try to share minutes as best we can," Hill said. "It was good that certain players got 60 in an effort to build toward playing 90 minutes in the first game of the season. It was a great exercise. Hopefully no one's got an injury tonight and that'll be another bonus for us."
Three minutes after entering the match, forward Devin Del Do scored his first goal of the preseason, showing excellent ball control to collect a cross from Jordan Gafa and beat two UT defenders before slotting home.
Hill praised his team's fluidity in changing formations and personnel on the fly.
"If we've got the ball, I don't mind people taking up different positions for the time being," Hill said. "I'd like them to play from their positions when they can, but in the normal flow of the game, I have no objections to them moving around. As long as we keep the ball well and execute well, I think it's great that anyone can pop up in any position. I saw (defender) Blake Wagner playing as a withdrawn striker in the second half and that's great, as long as we've got control of the ball.
Hill had 20 players play at least 30 minutes in the game, with only midfielders Evans Frimpong and Anthony Wallace playing the full 90 minutes.
Goalkeeper Ryan Thompson, playing against his alma mater, played the first 60 minutes before trialist Cody Mizell finished the clean sheet in net for the Rowdies.
"We've got to set targets for each other and I asked them how long they could maintain a clean sheet for," Hill said of his goalkeepers. "We've got to take that mentality into the season because clean sheets will give us an opportunity to win games. If we can keep as many clean sheets as we can, that will help us get in front in games and be difficult to beat."
The Rowdies continue their preseason when they visit Florida Gulf Coast University at St. Petersburg’s Walter Fuller Complex on Saturday, March 15, at 7 pm ET.
The 2014 NASL Spring Season begins for the Rowdies on April 12, when they host FC Edmonton at Al Lang Stadium.
03.08.2014: Tampa Bay, Florida; Pepin Stadium
UNIVERSITY OF TAMPA SPARTANS – TAMPA BAY ROWDIES 0-3 (0-2)
Keith SAVAGE 3’; Georgi HRISTOV 24’; Devin DEL DO 63’
UT Spartans: Norbert Bengyel - Andrew Clare, Daniel Darkwa, John Bentham, Alex Knaggs, Daniel Barboto, Garett Garcia, Nasyir Rodriguez, Dominic Mondesir, Dorado Phipps, Craig Laird.
TD: Adrian BUSH
Tampa Bay Rowdies: Ryan Thompson (60: Cody Mizell*) - Frankie Sanfilippo (60: Jamie McGuinness*), J.P. Rodrigues (46: Willie Hunt*), Takuya Yamada (46: Jay Needham), Blake Wagner (60: Jordan Gafa), Evans Frimpong, Shane Hill (60: Kyle Clinton), Keith Savage (60: Darel Russell), Anthony Wallace, Brian Shriver (46: Christophe Lallet), Georgi Hristov (60: Devin Del Do).
TD: Ricky HILL