Collins gets a draw in his debut as Rowdies’ coach

by Gary Shelton on May 20, 2018 · 0 comments

in general

Joe Cole congratulates new coach Neill Collins./CARMEN MANDATO

Joe Cole congratulates new coach Neill Collins./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 1:30 a.m.

So what's so hard about this, huh?

Neill Collins, the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, had a solid debut Saturday night, seeing his team draw with the undefeated Pittsburgh Riverhounds

It might not have been the dream result for Collins, but after three straight defeats, all of them by shutouts, it will do. Collins was named the new coach of the Rowdies on Thursday, replacing Stuart Campbell.

Junior Flemmings after he missed a header on goal./CARMEN MANDATO

Junior Flemmings after he missed a header on goal./CARMEN MANDATO

The Rowdies (4-5-1, 13 points) took an early lead and then fell behind by halftime before Joe Cole scored on a free kick to level the affair and help Tampa Bay pick up a point.

“Those lads tonight tried to do everything I asked,” Rowdies coach Neill Collins said after his first match on the sidelines. “At times, it worked. At times, it didn’t,

Jochen Graf puts a shot on net./CARMEN MANDATO

Jochen Graf puts a shot on net./CARMEN MANDATO

but the most important thing is that they were trying to implement specific things I asked. … We could have won it or we could have lost it, but at the end of the day, we went for it.”

Collins’ first match on the touchline couldn’t have gotten off to a better start with Lance Rozeboom scoring the opening goal less than three minutes into the game. Alex Morrell, playing his first match of the season, received a short corner from Marcel Schafer and played it into the box, where Rozeboom stuck out a foot and redirected it on target to give the Rowdies a quick 1-0 lead.

“Neill made it a point, especially in the first few minutes to play quick off the

Hristov battles against Pittsburgh./CARMEN MANATO

Hristov battles against Pittsburgh./CARMEN MANATO

corners and Marcel and Alex played quick,” Rozeboom said. “Alex got it in and I just tried to flick it on. … It was a good start for us.”

Pittsburgh (4-0-5, 17 points) was gifted a path back into the match in the 20th minute by a Rowdies own goal. Riverhounds forward Romeo Parkes took a shot that was saved by Akira Fitzgerald but popped straight upward.

As it bounced perilously toward the Rowdies’ goal, right back Max Lachowecki attempted to clear the danger but accidentally put it into Tampa Bay’s own net, leveling the game at 1-1.

Parkes got back on the attack in the 30th minute, taking a pass from Kenardo Forbes and beating Fitzgerald from close range to put the Hounds up 2-1. Those were the first goals conceded by the Rowdies at home all season.

Zak Portillos takes possession of the ball./CARMEN MANDATO

Zak Portillos takes possession of the ball./CARMEN MANDATO

Still down 2-1 in the 59th minute, Cole took the match into his own hands when Sebastian Guenzatti was fouled just inches outside the corner of the box.

Cole took the free kick and put it on target, bouncing it off the wet grass right in front of Pittsburgh goalkeeper Dan Lynd in a way that Lynd wasn’t able to handle as it skipped right between his legs and into the net to make the score 2-2.

We’ll not be celebrating too many ties,” Collins said. “Tonight we’ll go away and we’ll all reflect. Hopefully I can sleep tonight and I cannot wait until Monday morning.”

Tampa Bay now heads to Toronto to face Toronto FC II next Saturday afternoon before returning home to open a three-game home stand against Atlanta United 2 on Saturday, June 2 at Al Lang Stadium.

Collins coached his first game for Rowdies./CARMEN MANDATO

Collins coached his first game for Rowdies./CARMEN MANDATO

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