Tampa Bay Rowdies

Rowdies Defeat Louisville to Close Regular Season

October 14, 2023 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Tampa Bay Rowdies News Release

The Tampa Bay Rowdies closed out the 2023 USL Championship regular season with a 3-2 win on the road to Eastern Conference rival Louisville City FC on Saturday night at Lynn Family Stadium. Rowdies forward Cal Jennings' first half brace was enough to carry the Rowdies over the line to victory and give the squad some confidence heading into a playoff matchup with Birmingham Legion FC at home next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

"Overall, we're delighted with the performance," said Rowdies Head Coach Nicky Law. "It sets us up well for the main event next week, which is the playoffs. That's what these guys have worked so hard for all year round. I'm delighted we have a little bit of momentum to take into that game."

Last week, the Rowdies were hamstrung by a slow start and a goal conceded in the opening seconds against Pittsburgh. This week, the Rowdies flipped the script to find the back of the net 28 seconds into the match in Louisville. Jennings initiated the sequence, picking the pocket of defender Sean Totsch in the final third and centering a pass to the unmarked JJ Williams, who took a touch and blasted the early strike past keeper Oliver Semmle.

"That start was everything we asked from the players," said Law. "We didn't think it would pay off that quickly but it was great to see those two get their rewards so early on with the work they did on that particular play. But really they did that all night for us. Cal and JJ's work rate was sensational tonight, as was the effort from all the guys. It was a great response to last week's result."

Tampa Bay's Jake LaCava nearly doubled the lead just a few moments later with a low shot that clipped the near post. The hosts would strike back in the 19th minute, though. A well-placed cross from Rasmus Pedersen put Rowdies defender Freddy Kleemann in an awkward spot trying to clear the ball as Manny Perez attacked on his backside and the attempted clearance wound up in Tampa Bay's goal.

The equalizer was the lone defensive mishap on an otherwise solid night limiting Louisville's chances. Louisville didn't have a shot on target until the second minute of stoppage time in the second half, when Cameron Lancaster rocketed a shot from distance into the top corner.

"A good team like Louisville are always gonna have periods on the ball when they're at home," said Law. "You have to defend and you have to stick together. We had a lot of moments tonight when we did have to have a good shape and be compact. The guys did that. We kept them out of our box really well tonight. Apart from an unfortunate own goal and a world class finish we did well limiting them and keeping our shape."

Tampa Bay looked to pull ahead again in the 34th minute after Williams was pulled down in the box by defender Kyle Adams to draw a penalty. Williams stepped up for the conversion himself but lifted his attempt over the bar.

Undeterred by the missed penalty, Tampa Bay regained and then extended their lead in the span of just two minutes, as Williams and Jennings linked up for two goals. In the 36th minute, Rowdies keeper Connor Sparrow launched a long ball out from his own box that Williams connected with at midfield, heading the ball forward for Jennings to collect and race into the final third. Oscar Jimenez caught up with Jennings in the box, but the Rowdies attacker created enough space to fire a shot that took a deflection on its way into the net.

Two minutes later, Williams found Jennings again, threading a perfect through ball to free Jennings for a one-on-one with the keeper. Jennings put his shot on target, forcing Simmle attempt a save but Louisville's keeper could only deflect it into his own goal. The brace gives Jennings 19 goals on the season, a career-high for the 26 year old.

"You concede like we did, you miss a penalty, and you could be forgiven for thinking maybe we're gonna struggle from that moment on," said Law. "Our response was unbelievable. To go on and score two goals in two minutes straight after such disappointment with the penalty was great. It's a testament to the guy's mentality. It would have been easy to not dig in and not put up much of a fight, but that's not in these guys' DNA, it's not in our organization's DNA. I'm happy with the mentality shown by the players during the game and their work and the staff's work throughout the week. It really sets us up well for the playoffs next week."

Tickets for the Rowdies Eastern Conference Quarterfinal match against Birmingham at Al Lang Stadium next weekend can be purchased.

Scoring Summary

TBR - Williams (Jennings), 1'

LOU - Freeman (Own Goal), 19'

TBR - Jennings (Williams), 36'

TBR - Jennings (Williams), 38'


TBR: Sparrow, Doherty, Kleemann, Lasso, Guillen, Antley, Doherty, Ekra, LaCava, Jennings, Williams

LOU: Semmle, Perez, Jimenez, Totsch, Adams, Gibson, Pedersen, McCabe, Harris, Ownby, Mares

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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