Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Sports

Win puts Rowdies back in playoffs

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG — Two sides that wanted a win in the worst way, if for different reasons, made for vastly entertaining soccer Wednesday night.

Tampa Bay clinched its first postseason berth in five years with a 3-2 win over visiting New York before an announced crowd of 5,260 at Al Lang Stadium. It was the Rowdies' regular-season home finale as they took a strong step to securing at least one home playoff game, if not more.

Marcel Schafer was a menace, scoring twice for Tampa Bay while assisting on the other goal.

After Wednesday's win, the Rowdies (13-7-10, 49 points) are in second place in the USL's Eastern Conference, one point up on both Charleston and Charlotte, all with two games remaining. Louisville (56 points) has clinched the No. 1 seed, but the No. 2 spot means homefield through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

"It's a great achievement, to book their place in the playoffs with two games to go, they've done great," said coach Stuart Campbell, a player-coach on the 2012 squad that was the last Rowdies team to make the playoffs. "The players deserve enormous amounts of praise for that. It's been too long for a team like the Rowdies to be out of the playoffs for that amount of time."

The Rowdies came in fairly secured of a playoff spot with three matches left but wanted to clinch at home. New York was anything but safe for one of the East's eight playoff berths and left in the final spot, one point up on Bethlehem with a match remaining between the two.

The Red Bulls II pressed forward from the opening kick and were rewarded 16 minutes in when Vincent Bezecourt passed to Stefano Bonomo, who scored for a 1-0 lead.

But the Rowdies answered, threefold, the rest of the half, with Schafer doing much of the damage. After intercepting a New York pass near midfield, Schafer passed to Joe Cole, who scored in the 18th minute.

Schafer scored the next two goals; the first with assistance from Georgi Hristov, who passed to Schafer in tight space for a 2-1 lead in the 25th minute. Hristov, Tampa Bay's leading scorer (11 goals), returned to the lineup after a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation.

It was all Schafer for a 3-1 lead right before the half, as he took a ball 45 yards from goal, took a few touches and scored from 25 yards out. The German midfielder has five goals and is one of the league leaders with 10 assists.

"Normally I like to assist my teammates, but no one was there so, as we say in Germany, I take my heart in my hand and shot," Schafer said.

New York got one back less than 10 minutes into the second half on a long ball from Arun Basuljevic, with Junior Flemmings scoring in the 54th minute. Tampa Bay's cause was aided in the 63rd minute when New York rookie Jordan Scarlett incurred a second yellow card, leaving his team down a man.

Comments

Call Missouri jinxed, but Michael Porter Jr. injury is its own story

Please repeat after me: There is no such thing as jinxes, hexes, ghosts or cartoonish black clouds looming with personalized curses for select targets.Honest.But, boy, are there coincidences — even if some say there is no such thing as those, either....
Updated: 6 hours ago

Giants are NFL’s most disappointing team this season, but Broncos are close

The New York Giants made the playoffs for the first time in four years last season under the guidance of coach Ben McAdoo, setting high expectations for the 2017 campaign. They pushed those expectations even higher with the addition in free agency of...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Cambridge Christian’s Caleb Young makes up for lost season

Cambridge Christian’s Caleb Young makes up for lost season

TAMPA — For Cambridge Christian, last Friday’s Class 2A region final against Indian Rocks Christian represented a hurdle that the Lancers couldn’t quite clear a year ago. For one Lancer in particular, it was the Golden Eagles themselves that brought ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

TAMPA — Third and long, normally an ideal situation for an NFL defense, continues to be a problem as the Bucs try to get opposing offenses off the field.In the second half of Sunday’s game, the Dolphins converted six third downs when they needed 8 ya...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Browns welcome Gordon to practice

Browns welcome Gordon to practice

CLEVELAND — Every day he stays committed and sober, Josh Gordon takes another step toward playing again in the NFL. The long walk and wait are nearly over. The wide receiver, who squandered millions in potential earnings and derailed a promising care...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

TAMPA — The Bucs face the defending NFC champions twice in their final six games. As they prepare to go to Atlanta on Sunday, former Tampa Bay first-round pick Adrian Clayborn is enjoying quite a two-week run.Clayborn, 29, had six sacks Nov. 12 in a ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

TAMPA — It’s the biggest football game in USF history.It’s two days and 90 miles away. USF at UCF. The 9-1 Bulls against the 10-0 Knights. It’s USF coach Charlie Strong against UCF/Florida/Nebraska coach Scott Frost. It’s the best these two programs ...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Chip Kelly is not the best candidate for Florida job

For the sake of a beleaguered and bedraggled fan base, here’s hoping Chip Kelly becomes the next head coach of the Florida Gators even though I think he’s not a great fit — culturally, geographically and philosophically — at UF.Gator Nation needs som...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Lane Kiffin knows speculation about his future grows with each victory

BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin already knows what profession he will choose once his coaching career ends.Kiffin, in his first season at Florida Atlantic, thinks he is destined to join the sports-media ranks. It will provide him opportunity to switch roles...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Strong’s slip about UCF’s Griffin seen as motivation for Knights

Strong’s slip about UCF’s Griffin seen as motivation for Knights

TAMPA — While saying nothing to purposely fan the flames of the USF-UCF rivalry during his weekly news conference Tuesday, Bulls coach Charlie Strong provided fuel for the Knights’ best player.He used the H-word when discussing Knights senior outside...
Updated: 7 hours ago