PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies secured the first victory in club history at Pittsburgh’s Highmark Stadium on Saturday, putting on an attacking showcase to come away with a 5-2 victory behind two goals from Leo Fernandes.
“You’ve got to come out and really perform in a difficult environment like this, and I think we really did that,” said coach Neill Collins. “For the first time this season, I think we can really say that we took our opportunities. We’ve created so much, and we haven’t quite had the benefit of those chances, and (Saturday) we did.”
The Rowdies (8-3-6), unbeaten in seven straight matches, fell behind early. In the 13th minute, Pittsburgh parted Tampa Bay’s defense to set up Arturo Ordonez for a header, and he finished it past Rowdies goalkeeper CJ Cochran for a 1-0 lead.
The Rowdies responded with five unanswered goals.
Kyle Greig tied the score two minutes later. Laurence Wyke launched a free kick from Tampa Bay’s end for Sebastian Dalgaard, who beat out the Pittsburgh defender to head the ball into space for Greig. The striker then chipped the ball past on-running Riverhounds goalkeeper Kevin Silva.
Five minutes after that, Fernandes got his first goal. Midfielder Yann Ekra set him up with a one-touch chip over the back line, and Fernandes scored as Silva slipped on the turf coming off his line.
Tampa Bay went up 3-1 in the last five minutes of the first half. Dalgaard picked up his second assist of the night with an impressive dribbling sequence down the left wing and along the end line before sliding a pass across the box to unmarked Jake LaCava for the finish.
The Rowdies added goals in the 57th and 64th minutes.
On the first, Lewis Hilton sent a booming pass from midfield that fell perfectly for Fernandes just outside the box. Fernandes chipped the ball over a defender and sent it into the bottom right corner of the net.
Substitute Lucky Mkosana added the final goal. He pounced on Pittsburgh’s last defender to strip him of the ball and drove forward before putting a shot into the same bottom corner as Fernandes.
Russell Cicerone got a goal back for Pittsburgh in the 75th minute with a rebound shot after an initial save from Cochran.
“I’d rather we didn’t lose those early goals, but it’s a testament to the boys, to their character, and also their belief in each other and what they’re doing,” Collins said. “They kept doing the right things, got a goal quickly, which I think helped, and after that, I thought we looked very good.
“While Pittsburgh had a couple opportunities, I think we had even more opportunities that we didn’t take. Plenty more positives (Saturday) than negatives.”