Jacksonville Sports Day

USL: Tampa Bay Rowdies Dominate Ottawa Fury FC in 5-0 Home Win

ST. PETERSBURG — Coming into Saturday night’s match against Ottawa Fury FC, beating an opponent by a score of 5-0 was something the Tampa Bay Rowdies hadn’t ever done in the Modern Era.

With the clubs still deadlocked at 0-0 an hour into the match, it didn’t seem like Saturday night was going to change that.

But then the Rowdies woke up.

A five-goal explosion over the course of the final 30-plus minutes carried Tampa Bay to its first 5-0 win in the Modern Era in thrilling fashion as the home team simply had too much firepower for Ottawa to handle.

Georgi Hristov, Leo Fernandes (2), Joe Cole and Zac Portillos had the goals on an exciting night for the Rowdies (3-1-0, 9 points.)

“We sort of anticipated (a second half like that),” Tampa Bay Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We spoke about it in the preparation leading up to the game that the key word was going to be ‘patience.’ We knew how well organized Ottawa were and they we couldn’t really force it. … In the second half, we were very, very clinical.”

Neither team created much to speak of in the first half, with Ottawa (0-2-0, 0 points) putting in a typically gritty performance.

At the hour mark, the Rowdies were still waiting for the breakthrough when Hristov provided the go-ahead goal, heading a Marcel Schäfer cross past Callum Irving to put the Rowdies up 1-0. It was Hristov’s third goal of the season and he now trails Derek Smethurst by only goal for the all-time Rowdies scoring record of 57 goals.

“I think we had a great game,” Hristov said. “If I can say anything about my goal, it’s just that that cross from Marcel, I just knew it was coming. I had to pick the right spot.”

From there, it was all Rowdies.

Leo Fernandes got his name on the scoresheet in the 71st minute, putting a shot on goal that Fury FC center back Chris Mannella forced into his own net, giving the Rowdies a 2-0 lead.

Fernandes scored his second goal of the match — and team-high fourth goal of the season — in the 79th minute, beating his defender with an eye-popping stepover, before firing past Irving from a sharp angle for a 3-0 Rowdies lead.
“Usually when you’re on the endline, they expect you to cross it,” Fernandes said. “I put in a couple crosses earlier, so I tried to fake him out and shoot it right away and it went in. … Coach (Campbell) says to be patient because that’s how it’s going to be this season. We should have most of the possession and when we have our chances, we have to finish them.”

Joe Cole made it 4-0 in the 87th minute, finishing a pass from Jack Blake for his first goal of the season.

After Ottawa’s Onua Obasi was sent off for stomping on Sebastian Guenzatti’s ribs in the 90th minute, Zac Portillos provided the nightcap for his first professional goal. Portillos headed a cross from Fernandes to complete the scoreline at 5-0.

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