NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies dropped a 3-0 decision to host Orlando City Lions of USL PRO 2-0 in the first-leg of the I-4 Derby at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex on Wednesday evening.
Tampa Bay played an experimental side with an NASL league match looming Saturday evening in San Antonio. Five players made their Rowdies debut on the night, with nine players making their first start of 2014. As a result, Orlando City raced to a 2-0 halftime lead largely against the run of play. The Lions added a third in second-half stoppage time.
“Orlando played well and up until the first goal it was very even,” Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. “We conceded two goals before halftime which gave a false scoreline to the game. Psychologically, it probably gave them a lift and I felt even though we were 2-nil down, I think if someone came late to the game and saw the way our team was playing, they wouldn’t realize without looking at the scoreboard that we were losing.”
Rowdies forward Lucky Mkosana, who made his first start of the season, had the earliest chance to score, collecting a ball from Evans Frimpong and pushing his shot off the bar in the 24th minute.
Four minutes later, Orlando City midfielder Adama Mbengue scored the opener, shooting past debutant Ryan Thompson and into the far side of the goal to give the Lions a lead.
Just before halftime, Thompson made a point-blank save on an Orlando City shot, but the rebound bounced directly to Dennis Chin, who kicked it before Thompson had a chance to recover and make another save.
The forward combination of Mkosana and Casey Townsend was impressive in the first half, despite not having a goal to show for it.
“Both of them did excellently,” Hill said. “They combined with each other and worked across the full width of the pitch together. Ultimately, they both had a couple of looks at goal and, on a different day, might have scored one or two each.”
The formation fluidity continued in the second half, with regular left back Blake Wagner and regular left midfielder Anthony Wallace swapping spots on the field.
“We had our opportunities,” Hill said. “We had counterattacks and breaks but we weren’t clinical enough in regards to quality of possession and ensuring that we set our teammates up for goal opportunities. It broke down too easy when we had the ascendency and we had the opportunity to score.”
The Rowdies will chase an 0-3 deficit when Orlando City visits Al Lang Stadium on July 6 for the decisive second leg after Brian Span’s stoppage time goal.
“It would’ve been nice to go back with just the two-goal deficit, but our focus is on San Antonio on Saturday,” Hill said.
Next, the Rowdies hit the road for a two-match swing, first visiting San Antonio and Ottawa before returning to Al Lang Stadium to face the rival New York Cosmos on May 17 and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on May 24.
Orlando: Adama Mbengue- 27th minute (Assisted by Brian Span)
Orlando: Dennis Chin- 44th minute
Orando: Brian Span- 90th minute
Rowdies: Willie Hunt- 45th minute
Rowdies: Takuya Yamada- 77th minute
Rowdies: Ryan Thompson (46: Cody Mizell) - Jordan Gafa (46: Anthony Wallace), Frankie Sanfilippo (66: Takuya Yamada), Jay Needham, Willie Hunt (66: JP Rodrigues), Evans Frimpong (66: Blake Wagner), Kyle Clinton, Keith Savage, Christophe Lallet, Casey Townsend (46: Brian Shriver), Lucky Mkosana (66: Georgi Hristov)
Orlando City Lions: Miguel Gallardo - Tyler Turner (71: Bitielo Jean Jacques), Justin Clark, Brad Rusin, Luke Boden, Cobi Span, Adama Mbengue, Darwin Ceren (62: Anthony Pulis) , Yordany Alvarez, Kevin Molino (64: Mikey Lopez), Dennis Chin (64: Corey Hertzog)