The Rowdies suffered their first loss of the season, mustering one shot on goal in a 1-0 defeat to the Charlotte Independence on Saturday night. Tampa Bay was attempting to become the third USL Championship team to start the season 6-0.
Shortly after hitting the post and having the resulting rebound get cleared just off the goal line by Tampa Bay’s Aaron Guillen, the Independence nabbed the night’s only goal on a penalty kick. Rowdies defender Forrest Lasso was called for a foul against Irvin Parra, who was in no position to score but got contact and took the fall.
Though Evan Louro guessed right, diving to his left and making contact, Junior Etou’s shot still sneaked inside the post in the 25th minute.
Charlotte had another penalty given late in the first half but Louro came up with a tremendous save, going to his right to deny Parra.
Having also played Wednesday night, coach Neill Collins gave several Rowdies their first starts (Yann Ekra, Dayonn Harris, Matt Srbely) and Sebastian Dalgaard saw his first since the opener. But the group provided no offensive push in the first half, and in the 67th minute Collins made a trio of substitutions.
“Charlotte looked like a team that was prepared and we looked like a team that played Wednesday night, even though we tried to freshen it up,” Collins said. “We didn’t have the normal intensity about us that we like to see. ...
“It’ll be a tough one to learn from.”
The action picked up significantly in the second half and Tampa Bay had a good chance to at least nab a point. Foster Langsdorf, a halftime sub himself, took a strong low strike but it was saved by Brandon Miller in the 72nd minute. Leo Fernandes found Langsdorf in front 10 minutes later, but Miller blocked it away from danger. Charlotte outshot the Rowdies 7-6 for the night.
Louro actually did well to prevent a 2-0 score with a tremendous save on Dane Kelly’s sensational 79th-minute effort.
The Rowdies, who started 5-0 for the first time in their modern era, defeated Charlotte 3-0 in the season opener. Despite the disappointing result, the Rowdies (5-1, 15 points) still lead the Atlantic Division by five points over Hartford, but that squad has played two fewer games and routed New York Red Bulls 2 by a 7-0 score Saturday.
“Five out of six to start the season, when we look at some of the players we’ve had out, is a good start, but we’re looking for great,” Collins said. “I think we’ll look back and see it as an opportunity missed.”
Charlotte (3-2) pulls into a tie for third place with Miami, which is in action Sunday. The Rowdies return home Friday against one-win Loudoun United. Fans will be allowed in at full capacity for the first time since the 2019 season.