Jacksonville Sports Day

USL: Rowdies Earn Point In Scoreless Draw Against Charleston

Neither side found a way to break the deadlock in a  tightly-contested scoreless draw between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Charleston Battery at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night.

It was a big night for the Rowdies as they attempted to bounce back from a loss last week against one of the Eastern Conference’s best — and stingiest — teams. This was Charleston’s fourth-consecutive shutout.

“A lot of very, very positive performances,” Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins said. “We created more than enough chances to win the game, but you’ve got to put the ball in the back of the net. If we perform like that, we’ll be good.”

Tampa Bay (7-9-6, 27 points) made a tactical switch for this match, lining up in a 3-5-2 with newly-signed Tarek Morad inserted straight into the lineup as one of three center backs. While the Rowdies lacked the final product, they looked a much better side defensively than in recent weeks, a positive sign for the stretch run of the regular season.

The Rowdies, armed with a high defensive press, carried 57 percent of the possession and held the Battery (10-3-10, 40 points) to just one shot on target all night. Charleston forward Ataulla Guerra, who is tied for the league lead with 12 goals on the season, did not record a shot on target. It was the Rowdies’ first clean sheet since June 2 and just their fourth of the season.

Apart from a couple of chances that Rowdies midfielder Junior Flemmings rolled inches wide early in the second half, the closest either side came to scoring was in the 65th minute when he pounced on a loose ball in the box and put it in the back of the net only for the offside flag to be raised.

“They had five guys in the back, so that was really tough,” Flemmings said. “They were solid defensively. They’re (third) in the table, so they must be doing something good. I thought they were solid and I didn’t think we were really creative enough up top to pull those center backs out.”

The Rowdies’ other good chance was in the 18th minute when Stefano Bonomo received a Leo Fernandes cross and put a header on target.

Tampa Bay tallied 14 shots on the night, but only two were on target against Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky. Nearly the entire match was played in Charleston’s half with eight of their 11 players’ average position being on their own side of the halfway line.

“It just comes down to small parts of the game where you’ve got to finish off good play,” Collins said. “And there was a lot of good play.”

The result keeps Tampa Bay below the playoff line for now, four points behind Ottawa for the final playoff spot with 12 matches to play. The Rowdies are in a tie with North Carolina FC, which visits Al Lang Stadium for a huge match Saturday night.

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