The Tampa Bay Rowdies advanced to the third round of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night, after defeating VSI Tampa Bay FC 2-1 at Plant City Stadium in Plant City, Fla. With the win, the Rowdies will host Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders FC on Wednesday, May 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg.
"These cup games are all about focusing the entire match and going step by step," said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. "We know we can beat any team if we are on our best level that day and that is our goal for next Wednesday. We know our supporters will be out at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday and Wednesday to show why they are the best fans in the U.S."
Forward Georgi Hristov had initially opened the scoring off a penalty kick, but VSI quickly tied things up thanks to midfielder JT Noone. It was the Bulgarian forward who put the Rowdies ahead minutes before the half with a great individual run.
"It wasn't the best match we have played but these cup games have to be won in any way, shape or form," commented Hill. "I am proud of the team's effort tonight and I expect to continue on this winning streak. It is our duty to first win our match on Saturday and then go and face Seattle for the cup match at home next Wednesday."
With the match at a scoreless draw through the first quarter hour, VSI was awarded a penalty kick after Rowdies defender Andres Arango was called for a foul inside the box in the 16th minute. It was midfielder Tony Donatelli who stepped up and took the penalty shot, only to find goalkeeper Diego Restrepo's glove save to force the ball off the post and out of play.
"It is all about confidence," explained Restrepo. "I know I made some key saves tonight, and the penalty kick was on of them. Before coming to the Rowdies, my last official match had been in Novemeber, so now I am getting the hang of things and feeling comfortable in goal."
Entering the 20th minute, Hristov would be brought down in the box, as he went down the right flank toward VSI's goal. Hristov opened the scoring in the 21st minute on the ensuing penalty kick. MInutes later midfielder JT Noone recieved a low cross from midfielder Shawn Chin and leveled things up at Plant City Stadium.
It was Hristov once again who put the Rowdies up once again with his second U.S. Open Cup goal and his fourth this year with the Rowdies. A great run just before the half time whistle gave Hristov space to run and as he entered the 18-yard box he sliped the ball past VSI's goalkeeper for the go-ahead goal.
"It was great to go up at half time with a goal in the last minutes of the first half," said Hill. "I credit the players for really reacting to Diego's penalty kick save earlier in the half. They bounced back and reacted well."
The second half began with forward Amani Walker on the pitch, coming on for Carl Cort which added speed to the attack. Walker caused a constant arial threat, sending several headers just inches wide of VSI's net. The Rowdies defense acted well to VSI's attack, clearing the ball from the box in several opportunities.
With VSI focused on getting the equalizer, the Rowdies were able to find spaces and create chances. In several moments, the Rowdies controlled the match, but were threatened by VSI's long balls that would try to catch the Rowdies off guard. The Rowdies would hold on for the win, led by Restrepo who began the match with a game-changing save on the initial VSI penalty kick.
"We held our line fairly well in the second half," said defender Daniel Scott. "It is a great win personally and for my it gives me a chance to go up against my brother who plays on Seattle. These cup matches are special because it is one game that decides who goes through and next Wednesday's match we plan to go out and play with intensity."
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov - 21st minute (Penalty Kick)
VSI: JT Noone - 27th minute (Assisted by Shawn Chin)
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov - 43rd minute
Tampa Bay: Andres Arango - 16th minute
VSI: Kyle Hoffer - 20th minute
VSI: ALex Freitas - 65th minute
VSI: Mauricio Salles - 90th minute
GK Diego Restrepo; D Jordan Gafa, D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D Daniel Scott, D Andres Arango; M Evans Frimpong, M Luke Mulholland, M Stuart Campbell (Kyle Clinton 82'), M Raphael Cox (Keith Savage 62'); F Georgi Hristov, F Carl Cort (Amani Walker 45')
GK Kyle Horwath; D Alex Freitas, D Kyle Hoffer (Captain), D Josh Rife, D Sean Reynolds; M Tony Donatelli (Mauricio Salles 73'), M JT Noone, Darren Toby (Jaron Stigall 79'), M Shawn Chin; F Douglas Dos Santos, F Andriy Budnyy (Chad Burt 64')
-courtesy Nico Castillo/Tampa Bay Rowdies