ST. PETERSBURG — Georgi Hristov tied a 40-year-old franchise record with his 57th career goal Saturday at Al Lang Stadium, fueling the Rowdies' 2-0 shutout of previously unbeaten Real Monarchs SLC.
Hristov, a forward in his sixth season with Tampa Bay, took a through ball from Joe Cole in the 69th minute and blasted a shot past goalkeeper David Ochoa into the far left corner. He slid on his knees and raised his arms in triumph before being smothered by teammates to celebrate the historic goal in front of 6,027 fans.
"I'm happy," said Hristov, who shares the career goal-scoring mark with Derek Smethurst, an original Rowdie from 1975-78. "I'm happy for the win. I'm happy to tie the record, although it wasn't my goal. Most importantly I'm happy with the way we played against a very good team."
Entering as third-place teams in their conferences, the game also marked their first-ever matchup. Tampa Bay from the East is 4-2 overall and 3-0 at home. The Real Monarchs of the West dropped to 4-1.
"There was no sign of anyone feeling sorry for themselves," said Tampa Bay coach Stuart Campbell, alluding to last week's 5-0 loss to New York. "It was a very good performance. That was by far the best team we've played."
Tampa Bay struck first by capitalizing on a turnover for the lone goal of the first half. Cole stole the ball from defender Michael Gallagher and broke in alone on Ochoa. The midfielder drew the 17-year-old out of position and tucked it into an open net for his second goal of the season.
Cole had another breakaway called back on offsides in the second half and was issued a yellow card for kicking the ball over the net after the whistle.
"We needed to bounce back from last week," Cole said. "It's a good start to the season."
Ochoa, who was making his professional debut, snared a shot from Jochen Graf on a breakaway in the waning minutes. At the other end, Tampa Bay keeper Cody Mizell bounced back from last week's tough loss to post his third shutout of the season.