Saturday, July 21, 2018
Sports

Rowdies face potent attack in Carolina Railhawks

ST. PETERSBURG — Worry about ourselves, not the opponent. Take care of what we need to do and the rest will take care of itself.

Just about as eye-rolling as cliches can get, yes, but that's so often the approach for professional sports teams. And for the most part it's the way the Rowdies look at things.

But tonight, the Rowdies admit, is a little different. NASL-leading Carolina, 3-0 with six goals scored, is the opposition for the matchup at Al Lang Stadium.

"We must take into account how they go about things," Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell said.

The Railhawks love to attack, a three-forward alignment constantly looking to score. Last week's result was just 1-0 but that was due to an amazing performance from Ottawa goaltender Romuald Peisder.

Carolina leads the league with 40 shots, six per game going on target. Second-place Minnesota and New York, who trail the Railhawks by three points, also have six goals. No other team in the NASL has scored more than three.

Austin de Luz is tied for the league lead with three goals and Ty Shipilane, who had the highlight-reel goal against Ottawa, has two. Tampa Bay has just two total through three games.

So if the Rowdies, tied for fourth place with five points, want to pull to within one of Carolina, it likely can't expect a 1-0 result like last week over Edmonton.

Then again, Tampa Bay goaltender Matt Pickens must be feeling confident after his epic save of a penalty kick, on the last kick of the game, maintained that victory.

"Those things go a long way. It's just another thing to build your confidence," Pickens said. "I knew we had three points at stake. Going out there and getting our first win sets us up for a great match this weekend."

Pickens, defender Tam Mkandawire and forward Tommy Heinemann, who scored against Edmonton when he headed in Eric Avila's cross off a throw-in, were all named to the NASL team of the week.

Mkandawire cores a defensive group (along with Darnell King, Ben Sweat and newcomer Neill Collins) that has come together "a bit faster than we thought they would," Pickens said.

In fact Tampa Bay's one goal allowed is peerless through three weeks of NASL play; Carolina is the only top-five club to have allowed as many as three.

"I know it's early on, but we're a good group in the back — the four best in the league in my opinion," Pickens adds. "With Carolina, it's going to be a little different than what we've seen so far. They're more of a run-and-gun with three attackers who have pace. I think it's something to be aware of."

But, falling back on another cliche, not something to be overly concerned with tonight.

"We respect every opponent we play, but we don't fear them," Campbell said. "Ultimately, we are worried about how we play."

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