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Rowdies hope to avoid letdown

ST. PETERSBURG — With the Rowdies' historic victory over MLS's Seattle Sounders FC in the rearview mirror, the challenge for Tampa Bay is to refocus their attention on the NASL regular-season campaign.

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Sunday's match at Edmonton will have major implications for determining the spring season champion. The Rowdies trail league leaders Atlanta by two points and are tied with Carolina and Minnesota for second place. Edmonton is three points behind the Rowdies.

With five matches left in the spring season, it is critical the Rowdies get a result in all five to stay in the hunt for the title.

"We have to maintain our high standard of play," coach Ricky Hill said. "I'm already making that part of my mantra, part of my speech in terms of addressing the players. (Rowdies midfielder) Stuart (Campbell) made a point of it addressing the players after the game on Wednesday.

"We can't allow ourselves to follow Wednesday's performance with a subpar showing on Sunday."

The Rowdies have fared well away from Al Lang Stadium this season, winning all three league road contests. Before this season, the team had never won more than two in a row away from home.

"As a team, we're a very resilient group, a close-knit group," Hill said. "The fact that in our last league game Minnesota scored three goals kind of leaves a sour taste in our mouths.

"I'm hoping that our road record will continue on Sunday, and the Seattle victory will be out of the system to a degree, other than that lift they feel from beating one of the top sides in MLS."

Next stop, Portland: The Rowdies learned their fourth-round U.S. Open Cup opponent late Wednesday night when the Portland Timbers (MLS) overwhelmed the Wilmington Hammerheads (USL PRO) 5-1.

The Timbers (5-1-7) are in second place in the MLS's Western Conference.

"Portland has been a very good side this season in the MLS," Hill said. "It's going to be a great occasion. We should have no reason to feel an inferiority complex because we have a nice mixture of experience and youth, and we've proven over time that we can produce good results in important times."

The Timbers' fan support at Jeld-Wen Field is legendary. The team sells out every game and is backed by the Timbers Army supporters group, which fills the general admission stands behind the north goal with nonstop singing, chanting and dancing throughout the match.

The Timbers' mascot, Timber Joey, is famous for using a chain saw to saw a slab off a large log behind the north goal after every Timbers goal and presenting the wood piece to the goal scorer.

"I'm hoping they don't have any of those celebrations the night we play them," Hill said.

The Bulgarian Bullet: With his 75th-minute goal against Seattle on Wednesday, Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov extended his scoring streak to three games. Hristov has scored all five goals in the Rowdies' past three games, and he leads the team with seven goals this season.

"For me, I don't care what kind of game we play against who," Hristov said after the victory over the Sounders. "Every time, I try to give 100 percent for me to show myself, to show what I can do, what I've always been doing back in Europe. I'm really thankful to the whole team for helping me score goals because that's actually my job."

Since the team's re-emergence in 2010, the Tampa Bay record for goals scored in consecutive games (league and cup competitions) is five. Aaron King set that mark during the 2011 season (July 4-27).

Rowdies hope to avoid letdown 05/30/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 30, 2013 10:07pm]
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