After squaring up against San Antonio for the last regular season contest between the two teams, the Rowdies will return home next Saturday to battle Puerto Rico for the last time before the NASL campaign changes its focus to the playoffs. As of Saturday afternoon, the Rowdies (10-5-6, 35 points) held a one-point edge over Puerto Rico (10-4-7, 34 points) and stood alone in second place in the NASL standings.
While the Rowdies are undefeated in their last five matches, the last two contests have ended in ties, including last Saturday’s scoreless affair against Atlanta. Times have suddenly become a bit edgier for a team that had won seven of eight matches, including a four-game win streak and a three-game one.
Scoring opportunities are getting increasingly tougher and the Rowdies must make a statement against San Antonio and Puerto Rico before finishing the season against Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, FC Edmonton and two games against Carolina, one at home and one on the road.
“It’s going to be tough the rest of the way,” Rowdies defender Andres Arango said after last week’s meeting with Atlanta. “Teams know our style now. We like to press. We have to keep the ball, keep the possession, have to be quicker in their half and have quicker ball movements, off the ball. But having contests like (the one against Atlanta) gets us ready for the next step, especially against San Antonio and Puerto Rico.”
The Rowdies lost the first two games against San Antonio back in May by a combined score of 4-1 during a stretch in which Tampa Bay went 2-1-4, but the Rowdies righted the ship in the middle of June with a victory at Minnesota to begin a four-game winning streak. The second victory in that streak came against the Scorpions in a scintillating comeback when the Rowdies scored two goals in the final minutes for a 3-2 win, highlighted by Luke Mulholland’s goal off a direct kick in the 88th minute and Tsuyoshi Yoshitake’s game-winner in injury time.
New Arrivals: Carl Cort, who was signed last week, will not be in uniform for Sunday’s meeting with San Antonio. The Rowdies announced the organization is still waiting for the immigration process to clear Cort for play in the United States.
To offset the delay, the Rowdies signed midfielder Raphael Cox, who was recently released from Atlanta. Cox, who signed with the Silverbacks in 2011, appeared in 43 NASL matches over two seasons, scoring four goals and assisting on four.
The 5-foot-7, 150-pound midfielder was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft by Real Salt Lake and scored one goal in six appearances for RSL.