Rowdies win season opener over North Carolina

by Gary Shelton on March 18, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Rowdies

Hristov had a penalty shot to give the Rowdies the winning goal./CARMEN MANDATO

Hristov had a penalty shot to give the Rowdies the winning goal./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 2 a.m.

So far, so good.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies opened their 2018 season with a 3-1 victory over North Carolina FC Saturday afternoon. A year ago, the Rowdies didn't win on the road until their third game.

"These are three very important points for the club," said coach Stuart Campbell. "I was very pleased with the dedication and passion that our team showed today. It shows how much work every player on our roster has put ahead of today."

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The Rowdies scored on goals by Leo Fernandes, Georgi Hristov and Jack Blake.

Fernandes scored the Rowdies' first goal of the season.

Fernandes scored the Rowdies' first goal of the season.

After surviving  several NCFC attacks, the Rowdies opened the scoring in the 23rd minute on a goal by Fernandes. After  a 50-yard run, the Brazilian midfielder slotted home a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Tambakis.

"I found space and decided to make a run at their center back," said Fernandes. "After making that last touch, I knew I had to beat him far post to be able to get the goal."

Fifteen minutes later, midfielder Steven Miller scored to tie the game at 1-1.

Hristov returned the lead to Tampa Bay. He is now three goals away from tying the Rowdies all-time scoring record of 57.

Goaltender Cody Mizell was in goal to help the Rowdies earn their first win of the season. Mizell made back-to-back huge saves from point-blank to keep the Rowdies up by one.

"I am there to help the team in any way I possibly can," said Mizell. "It's not only my saves, but the dedication of all the guys on the field to make sure they did not equalize. Hats off to all the team for putting forth a great performance."

The Rowdies had several chances to put the game away, but the insurance goal wouldn't come until the 90th minute. Newcomer Jack Blake found space in the final moments and curled his shot past a diving goaltender Alex Tambakis. The Rowdies earned a very-important three points.

"We're very excited for our home opener next Saturday," said Campbell. "It's amazing to play in front of our fans, who are the best in the league. We know the stands will be packed on Saturday night."

The Rowdies open their season Saturday night against Bethlehem Steel FC. The game begins at 7:30 p.m.





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