Recap: Revitalized Rowdies Dominate Cosmos at Home

Tampa Bay Rowdies 2 – New York Cosmos 0
Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, FL
Cautions: 13’ – Corey Hertzog (TBR), 27’ Samuel Caceres (NYC), 42’ Raul (NYC)

TBR – (M) Espinal for (M) Hertzog 63’, (M) Chavez for (M) Saragosa 77’
NYC – (D) Caceres for (D) Roversio 25’, (D) Restrepo for Freeman 46’ (M) Moffat for (M) Senna 73’


40′ – Corey Hertzog – Assist by Georgi Hristov (TBR)
76’ – Darwin Espinal – Assist by Brian Shriver (TBR)


Major Themes:

  • After a promising draw against Ottawa, would the Rowdies be able to bounce back against arguably the best team in the league? Everyone said no, but the team’s performance on the field was absolutely dominant.
  • The Cosmos looked nothing like the team that is capable of domination and last minute comebacks. The number of turnovers and errors was astonishing.
  • Stuart Campbell could not have notched a more signature win than this one, against a legacy rival, on the 40th Anniversary of the Rowdies, with many of the original members of the squad in attendance
  • Attendance was light – around 5600 – in spite of what was expected to be a major game. This may be due to a lack of confidence in the team by fans, after the firing of a very popular coach and GM.
  • The field at Al Lang, despite having been completely redone last year, continues to be a disappointment after record levels of rain have soaked Tampa Bay. The speed of the game slowed down significantly on the sloppy field, and it appears the Cosmos were ill-prepared for such conditions. Expect that the reverse will be true in Edmonton next week, with the Rowdies being unfamiliar with the cold and wind on turf.

In Form:

Darnell King (TBR) – The defender now winger had a spectacular game, outsprinting and outplaying the Cosmos midfielders. His ability to get back and defend and then immediately produce a counter attack had Raul frustrated and exhausted.

The Rowdies Defense – Originally the “spine” of the team in the 4-3-3, they lost their way at the intro of the fall season, only to regain it under new coach Stuart Campbell. The match ups were all favorable leading to a dominant performance for the Rowdies, with Saragosa shutting down the normally crafty Senna and Tamika Mkandawire completely boxing out former Rowdie and fan favorite Lucky Mkosana.

Corey Hertzog (TBR) – Never one to give a lackluster effort, Corey has found himself in opportunity after opportunity to score all year, but rarely able to notch the goal. This time his acrobatic contortionist goal changed the entire tone of the match, and his persistence on both pressuring defenders and getting into scoring position made a huge difference.

Cosmos GK Jimmy Maurer – It’s easy to say the two goals scored were flukes, but Maurer was in good form all night, blocking some great shots with his normal flashes of brilliance. Against a lesser keeper, the score could easily have gotten out of hand.

Rowdies GK Matt “Punch Out” Pickens – Notching his first clean sheet in god knows how long, Pickens was able to disrupt any attacks and set pieces that came his way with some brilliant punches, that ended up fueling many of the counter-attacks. He has not looked this in form since the Jacksonville game in the spring, when he came on in the 90th minute and performed a one man clinic that rivaled USA v Germany in the 2014 World Cup.

Brian Shriver (TBR) – It’s maddening to know which Shriver you’re going to get from one week to the next – when he disappears, the hole is glaring, but when he is in form, the entire offense simply clicks. This was a latter performance, and his role in the lineup as either a sub or a starter hinges upon the health of Omar Salgado and Maicon Santos. Either way, his addition to the pitch made a significant different in pace and energy.  Expect to see more of the NASL veteran in the future.


  • The Cosmos Defense – Normally a pretty stout group, they were struck by injuries early, and were unable to mark the streaking Rowdies attackers, leaving GK Jimmy Maurer to try and block some very crafty shots. Fortunately, he was able to keep the bleeding to a minimum
  • The age of the Cosmos – It’s too soon to be declaring anyone on the Cosmos as over the hill, but in sloppy conditions the midfield appeared to be absolutely mired in concrete. This may simply be a one-off situation, as players like Senna and Raul have a history of bouncing back, but this is the first time all season that the beast was shown to bleed.
  • Darnell King in the wing – despite his speed and absolute solid performances as a defender, moving King to the wing requires him to develop a little more touch than he has been displaying recently. He could benefit from more practice setting up attacks, and reducing the amount of turnovers.  He and Ben Sweat have proven themselves to be very versatile players worthy of praise.
  • Speaking of turnovers – The Cosmos were uncharacteristically generous with the ball in the midfield. Normally a position of strength, they were sloppy, slow, and completely disinterested in putting together more than a few connections before inevitably giving it away. Against a more technically sound team like Minnesota, this could have been disastrous, but against the looser Tampa Bay, it only bit them a few times. Overall though, this usually dominant team looked completely unfocused and lost at times.

You Won’t See On The Highlights:

  • The probable end of the year for Rowdies forward Maicon Santos – clutching his right calf / ankle area after going down without contact, the fear is that Santos may have injured his Achilles. The team was unable to comment at the time, but rumors and speculations are that it is season ending.
  • PRO? C’mon PRO! – Missing an obvious and blatant outstretched handball by Cosmos defender Samuel Caceres in the 64th minute that would have resulted in his second yellow, and would have put the team down a man. Fortunately, both the referee and linesman chose to ignore it (despite it being literally right in front of them) and allowed play to continue. Had there been a more contested battle, it could have been a deciding factor and sent the Unused Substitutes Twitter account into full frontal assault mode.

Lessons Learned:

  • The juggernaut that is the Cosmos has been shown to be vulnerable and even beatable, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy and everyone can do it. In fact, most teams won’t. But it must have been a minor wake up call for coach Gio Savarese to get more effort out of his players on the road. The wheels are far from falling off the bus for this team, and you can expect them to return to form at home against Jacksonville next week – ironically the only other team to notch a win against them.
  • It turns out the players really like Stuart Campbell – A nasty and persistent rumor of player discontent under Rongen continues to float around, but without much merit beyond the public statements of the players and whispers elsewhere. Whether it is true or not has yet to be seen, but the effort has definitely increased under new management. Unfortunately, the effort is not always for the full 90’, as several scoring opportunities were given up on by forwards late in the game. If Campbell can continue to work his managerial magic with this team, a turnaround might be in the future, and the season could still be salvaged. Winning against the Cosmos was a major step in that direction.


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