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Rowdies remain unbeaten, pick up a draw on the road

CJ Cochran is especially stout in goal, a good thing given that Tampa Bay finds few solid scoring chances in Oakland.
Rowdies keeper CJ Cochran, seen here earlier in the season, helped preserve a tie in Oakland on Saturday night.
Rowdies keeper CJ Cochran, seen here earlier in the season, helped preserve a tie in Oakland on Saturday night. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Apr. 3

CJ Cochran quite simply stole a point for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who can thank their goalkeeper for turning in a 0-0 result late Saturday at the Oakland Roots.

The Rowdies are still unbeaten, albeit with only two wins in five contests, the last two being draws. Whereas last weekend Tampa Bay vastly outplayed Hartford at home only to finish 1-1, this one was dominated by Oakland for the first hour. The Rowdies did not get a shot on goal until the 82nd minute.

“You can count on one hand the performances we’ve had like that in the past three years,” Rowdies coach Neill Collins said. “We just didn’t perform. Maybe I had a couple of things that I got wrong in terms of the way we were set up.”

Tampa Bay (2-0-3) began with Sebastian Guenzatti as its lone true forward and was outshot 7-1 in the first half with Oakland controlling play.

Cochran made two incredible saves in the half. In the eighth minute Charlie Dennis’ point-blank header was one-handed away by Cochran just as it was crossing the goal line. Late in the first half, Edgardo Rito made a great run across the goal line and fed Ottar Karlsson for another in-close strike that Cochran somehow parried away with his left hand.

Collins subbed in forward Steevan Dos Santos for midfielder Laurence Wyke at halftime, and the Rowdies’ remaining four subs were all attack-minded players who did produce some offense late. Guenzatti came up with the Rowdies’ first shot, well saved by Oakland’s Benny Diaz. Juan Tejada got a clean look a few minutes later but Diaz again was clutch.

“Considering how poor our performance was, we nearly saved it. In the end their keeper made two or three great saves,” Collins said.

The 89th minute was wild, as Diaz came up large on a header by Tampa Bay’s final sub, Kyle Greig. Oakland then counterattacked and had a 2-on-1, but Cochran came up with the goods against an unmarked Rito.

With both teams pushing for the victory, Oakland actually found the back of the net on a header three minutes into stoppage time, but Juan Azocar was a step offside.

“Tonight wasn’t really a clean-sheet performance from the team, but pleased that CJ earned it. You know what, CJ’s not really had any saves to make this season up to now. But that’s why you want a good goalkeeper. Once or twice a season you’re going to have to rely on them, and tonight he came up big,” Collins said.

He also suggested the artificial turf at Laney College’s stadium was not conducive to the Rowdies’ style of play. That won’t be a problem coming up as Tampa Bay’s next three matches are at Al Lang Stadium.

Oakland (0-3-2) still is seeking its first victory but was coming off a dramatic last-minute tie against New Mexico on Wednesday. Tampa Bay ended up with seven shots to Oakland’s 12, after the margin was 10-1 at one point. Last season the Rowdies outshot the Roots 20-4 in a 3-0 home victory.

“We just didn’t do the basics very well,” Collins said. “But I think we’ll look back on this as an important point.”

The Rowdies (2-0-3) host Miami next Saturday but before that welcome The Villages SC in an U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night.

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