The undefeated Tampa Bay Rowdies extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches with a convincing 3-1 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg. Two goals from forward Georgi Hristov and one from midfielder Shane Hill lifted the Rowdies to their second straight win at home.
“We had to adjust and it didn’t seem to affect us, but we had to be resilient late in the game when Atlanta threw everything at us,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “We came out with the right mentality and the game came to us, but I didn’t like the way we were having to hold on at the end.
“It’s a mixed bag but we’re delighted to get three points and our great fans get to go away happy.”
Tampa Bay was inches away from opening the scoring in the fourth minute when midfielder Luke Mulholland whipped in a corner kick to forward Lucky Mkosana, whose header was cleared off of the line. The reigning Soccer Bowl champions almost broke the deadlock once more in the fifth minute when Evans Frimpong played a low cross across the six yard box to forward Georgi Hristov, whose sliding shot went just wide of Atlanta’s goal.
The Rowdies began to emerge as the dominant side as the first half progressed, putting pressure on Atlanta’s goal and controlling possession. Neither side could really challenge the keepers, with both teams firing shots far above the goals on both sides of the pitch.
The Silverbacks were awarded a penalty kick when Rowdies center back Jay Needham tripped up a Silverbacks attacker in the 38th minute. Ruben Luna’s shot was saved by Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, diving low to his right.
The teams went back and forth attacking each other. The two traded chances for the remainder of the first half although neither team could break the deadlock, thanks to good play from Restrepo and Atlanta goalkeeper Joe Nasco.
The second half started with the Rowdies aiming to score the opening goal, which ended up coming in the 54th minute thanks to the Rowdies leading scorer Hristov. Mulholland initially centered in the ball from the right flank, finding a redirection from forward Devin Del Do at the near post. It was Hristov who was at the far post to net the opening goal.
Just four minutes later, Mulholland once again led the Rowdies attack to their second goal of the night as his corner kick was headed in by Hristov. The Bulgarian now has 11 goals in the season, inching closer to the NASL scoring leaders. Midfielder Shane Hill extended the lead to 3-0 in the 64th minute after his strike from around 35 yards out went past goalkeeper Joe Nasco, who was unable to get a touch on it.
“I’m delighted for Georgi who has played exceptionally well lately,” said Rowdies coach Hill.
The Silverbacks went in search of the goal that would cut the lead, but Restrepo once again showed why he has been one of the top keepers in the league. Atlanta cut the lead to two in the 75th minute after second-half substitute Horace James received a throw-in from Moroney and volleyed the ball past Restrepo.
The Rowdies had several opportunities in the final 15 minutes of the match, but Nasco was firm in goal and maintained the Silverbacks down just two goals.
“We missed five chances and we missed a penalty kick,” said Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes. “We played better in the second half in terms of creating chances.
“We had to put pressure on because we were down a couple of games and we have a whole lot of other chances to take and we didn’t take them.”
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