Saturday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Tampa Bay: 1-1-0, 4 points, T-1st place
Atlanta: 1-0-0, 3 points, 3rd place
Tampa Bay led the 2012 series 1-3-0 (W-T-L), with the Rowdies defeating Atlanta 3-2 on May 19 at Atlanta Silverback Park. Overall, the Rowdies have lost only once since their first meeting in 2011 and have posted a 3-4-1 overall record.
The Rowdies and Silverbacks faced off for last season on September 8, 2012. The matched ended in a 1-1 draw at Al Lang Stadium. Atlanta scored in the 30th minute after forward Matt Horth trickled the ball past Rowdies goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. The eventual NASL Champions would score the equalizer in the 42nd minute after defender Takuya Yamada picked up a rebound and was able to get a shot off.
Tampa Bay is coming off their first win of the 2013 Spring Season on Saturday night, defeating the San Antonio Scorpions 2-0 at Toyota Field. Forwards Amani Walker and Georgi Hristov guided the reigning NASL Champions to their first franchise win at San Antonio since the Scorpions entered the NASL in 2012.
Even though the Rowdies were outshot 13-4, they were able to maintain the shutout thanks to a strong performance by goalkeeper Andrew Fontein. A strong back four and a solid recovery unit in the midfield led the Rowdies to their first win this season, leaving them atop of the NASL Standings along with Carolina. With Hristov and Walker in the final third, midfielders Raphael Cox, Evans Frimpong and Luke Mulholland were able to service the ball into the box in several opportunities. It was a great individual play by midfielder Shane Hill that set up the Rowdies insurance goal. The London native left Hristov one-on-one with the Scorpions’ goalkeeper, who eventually would foul the forward in the box.
The excellent performance last Saturday placed four Rowdies players on the NASL Team of the Week. Forward Amani Walker and Defender Takuya Yamada made their second consecutive appearance on the NASL Team of the Week, with goalkeeper Andrew Fontein and midfielder Raphael Cox also making the team. Cox’s influence in the midfield earned him his first-ever NASL Player of the Week, while Fontein made six crucial saves to protect the Rowdies lead on Saturday.
As the 2012 season came to a close, Atlanta seemed to pick up steam and make a push for the 6th seed playoff spot. Their slow start was the main reason for their 7-9-12 record, which ended up hurting their playoff aspirations in the long run.
Recently the Silverbacks made their 2013 debut against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, defeating the Florida team 2-0 at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. Defender Beto Navarro and Midfielder Danny Barrera scored in the dying minutes of the match to give Atlanta the win. The Silverbacks will look to gain their first win at Al Lang Stadium, boasting a midfield with Danny Barrera and Richie Menjivar who are the keys to creating offensive threats for Atlanta.
Having lost their two top goal scorers from last year, Reinaldo Navia and Matt Horth, Pedro Mendes is now the lead forward along with Ruben Luna, who joined the team from FC Dallas.
Rowdies Head Coach Ricky Hill
“I was very pleased with the efforts on Saturday. We were able to go to San Antonio and get our first win this season, while playing our style of football. We have to enter the next match focused on picking up three points at home. With the tournament being shorter, every win means even more than just three points and the players and myself are aware of it.”
Source: Tampa Bay Rowdies