St. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies revamped their lineup in the offseason and got younger. Three of those newcomers led Tampa Bay to a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds FC Saturday night in its home opener.
Shawn Barry and Zach Steinberger scored with goalkeeper John McCarthy earning the shutout in front of 7,234 at Al Lang Stadium.
Coupled with a 1-0 win at Memphis 901 FC, Tampa Bay is 2-0. Pittsburgh lost its first game of the season.
“First home win of the season. We sent the fans home happy,” said Rowdies coach Neill Collins.
Barry scored in the 26th minute when he capitalized on a deflection off a corner kick and bounced the ball through traffic past goalkeeper Kyle Morton just inside the left post. Brandon Allen won the corner kick, which was taken by Steinberger.
“I wasn’t even going to go up and (teammate) Dom (Oduro) said go ahead,” said Barry, who also had an assist. “I was just trying to hit it hard, because there were a lot of feet in there.”
The Rowdies nearly scored in the 76th minute, but Tobi Adewole blocked Steinberger’s low kick from in close off a scramble in front of the Pittsburgh net.
Ten minutes later the Rowdies made it 2-0 on Steinberger’s tip-in. Barry worked toward the net from the right side, weaving past three defenders before crossing the ball to Steinberger, who put it into the lower left corner past a sprawling Morton.
“I just saw the openings and out of the corner of my eye I saw Zach,” Barry recalled.
“I was watching him cut up three or four people and I said, ‘I’m here,’ ” Steinberger said. “Luckily, he was able to get it to me and it was a little tip-in.
“We’re starting off the season 2-0, we get a win in front of the home crowd; I couldn’t feel better right now.”
The Tampa Bay defense was solid with a little help from the iron. Pittsburgh had the best scoring chance midway through the first half when Adewole’s header off a corner kick bounced high off the crossbar.
Early in the second half with three Pittsburgh players making passes in the box, defender Caleb Richards made a clearing kick as the ball rolled toward McCarthy. Later, Pape Diakite headed the ball away as Steevan Dos Santos tried to run under a floating pass.
There was a bit of luck involved as well with Pittsburgh’s Anthony Velarde taking a pass in front from Neco Brett and booting the ball high into the crowd behind the net.
“A big part of our defense is the front guys who work so hard,” Collins said.