ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies ended their four-game winless streak, defeating the New York Cosmos 2-0 in front of announced crowd of 5,630 at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night.
"It's absolutely huge to get the win (Saturday) at home," said coach Stuart Campbell, who got his first win since replacing fired Thomas Rongen on Aug. 21.
"The fans have been great to me, my family, the players from the moment I walked through the door. I wanted to go and give the fans something to cheer, and we certainly did."
With the victory, the Rowdies moved into fourth place, the final playoff spot, in the combined spring and fall season standings, three points ahead of idle Fort Lauderdale.
From the start, the Rowdies (3-6-2) were on the attack. They had two chances in the opening minutes and continued to apply pressure to the back line of New York, which is first in the combined standings.
Forward Corey Hertzog broke the ice just before halftime. He made a good run to the near post after Georgi Hristov collected a loose ball and made it to the end line before lobbing a ball into the box. Hertzog deflected the ball past goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer.
The goal was Campbell's first lead in the past 200 minutes of action.
In the second half, the game began to open up for the Rowdies. In the 70th minute, forwards Darwin Espinal and Brian Shriver teamed up for a give-and-go that resulted in the second goal as Espinal sneaked the ball past Maurer.
From that moment, the Rowdies' defense tightened. Midfielder Marcelo Saragosa sacrificed his body at one point to block a wide-open New York opportunity.
Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens was again stellar, recording his first shutout since June 13.
Campbell said he would have been more relaxed on the bench if the Rowdies had converted a few more of their chances.
"The Cosmos just keep going," he said. "And they've scored so many late goals to get numerous points late on. … We kept creating chances, but couldn't get the third goal. We'd have taken 2-0 before the game."
The Rowdies had several former players on hand for a halftime celebration of their inaugural season in 1975.
Times staff contributed to this report.