Rowdies fall to Penn FC

The Rowdies' Leon Taylor reacts after scoring for a 1-0 lead as Penn FC's Ken Tribbett hits the ground, too. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
The Rowdies' Leon Taylor reacts after scoring for a 1-0 lead as Penn FC's Ken Tribbett hits the ground, too. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
Published June 22 2018
Updated June 22 2018

By Darek Sharp

Times Correspondent

ST. PETERSBURG — For the second time this season, Penn FC got two goals from a former Rowdie that led the way to a win over Tampa Bay.

Lucky Mkosana doubled his season total Friday in a comeback 2-1 win before an announced crowd of 5,369 at Al Lang Stadium.

In what looked like a prime portion of their schedule, with four home matches out of five total, the Rowdies could not secure a victory, tying the previous three.

They led 1-0 at halftime Friday, with Marcel Schafer contributing an assist in his final game. He is leaving to take the sporting director job for German team Vfl Wolfsburg.

But Mkosana and a referee's decision did in the Rowdies (5-6-3). With Penn FC holding a man advantage, Mkosana took a setup from Frederick Opoku and slotted it inside the near post for a 2-1 lead in the 67th minute.

On the Rowdies' goal, Schafer, who lined up at left back, was sprung down the left sideline on a pass from defenseman Tam Mkandawire. He chested the ball down on the fly and delivered a low cross that Leon Taylor flicked in.

"It was a good, well-worked goal," Rowdies coach Neill Collins said. "Marcel's done that his whole time here."

Schafer ended with seven goals and 16 assists in 46 matches with Tampa Bay. The goal was Taylor's second in as many matches.

Mkosana tied the score less than four minutes into the second half, taking advantage of defensive confusion. He whiffed on an initial cross attempt, but a defender essentially passed the ball back to him, and Mkosana roofed it over Akira Fitzgerald.

Not long after, the Rowdies were down a man when Taylor was shown a straight red card. On a normal-looking long ball up the field by Fitzgerald, Taylor went up over Penn's Harri Hawkins and caught him with an elbow.

"I just thought it was a 50-50 challenge," Collins said. "In all the games I've played here, I've took a lot of knocks to the head, and not one person's been sent off against me. But we should have dealt with it. It happens. The Rowdies need to deal much better with adversity."

A few minutes later, Georgi Hristov got a yellow card, earning the striker a suspension for Tampa Bay's next match, Wednesday at Charlotte.

"The sending off makes a huge difference," Collins said. "I actually thought we played well for five or 10 minutes (after), then we created a couple of great chances. We should score."

Penn, which got two goals from ex-Rowdie Tommy Heiemann in a 3-0 May home win, vaulted from a 10th-place tie with Tampa Bay to a three-way tie for sixth in the USL's Eastern Conference.