The Rowdies lost against Orlando City in the first leg of the I-4 Derby Presented by United World Soccer by a final score of 3-2. Tampa Bay was unable to hold a one-goal first half lead at the Fifth Third Bank Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
Forward Amani Walker put the Rowdies ahead in the 18th minute after he intercepted a sloppy pass from the Lions defense. The newcomer picked up his first goal since coming to the Rowdies, slipping the ball past Orlando's goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo.
Orlando would come from behind to defeat the Rowdies with three goals in the second half. The first goal came in the 49th minute after Tampa Bay was unable to clear out a corner kick, which forward Jamie Watson capitalized to equalize the match. In the 58th minute, the Lions scored the go-ahead goal with a strike by midfielder James O'Conner from outside the 18-yard box. Orlando's third goal came in the 70th minute, as midfielder Jean Alexandre chipped the ball over Rowdies goalkeeper Andrew Fontein for the 3-1 lead.
Tampa Bay was able to slice the lead in half in the 75th minute after a great free kick by midfieler Luke Mulholland. The Rowdies midfielder slotted the ball into the bottom left corner of the net, scoring the final goal of the match.
Rowdies goalkeeper Fontein had a superb first half, denying the Lions their first goal of the night in several occasions. Orlando’s Watson had two clear chances in the first half, beginning in the 6th minute after he got through the back line, but Fontein denied the goal with a diving save. Watson once again broke free from the Rowdies defense in the 11th minute , shooting from the left side of the 18-yard box. Fontein was well positioned, diving to his left and sending the ball out for a corner kick.
18 minutes into the match, the reigning NASL Champions capitalized on their first chance of the night. Walker was able to intercept an Orlando pass near the midfield and found himself on a breakaway with Gallardo. After a 35-yard run, Walker entered the 18-yard box and scored the Rowdies go-ahead goal.
After Tampa Bay’s goal, the Lions looked to find the equalizer with the clearest chance coming in the 28th minute. Midfielder James O'Connor took a shot from just outside the 18-yard box, forcing Fontein to dive to his left and make a great save.
Minutes into the second half, Fontein once again held the Rowdies lead with a great stop on midfielder Jean Alexandre. Fontein would not be able to stop Watson's shot from inside the 6-yard box in the 49th minute. Watson scored the tying goal after the Rowdies defense was unable to clear a corner kick.
The equalizer created momentum for Orlando City, as they gave the Rowdies very little space to play. The Lions continued to pressure, scoring the 2-1 goal in the 58th minute from O'Connor's 19-yards shot. Orlando would strech the lead to two thanks to Alexandre's goal in the 70th minute.
Tampa Bay was able to score a second goal, after Mulholland placed his free kick in the back of the net in the 75th minute. The Rowdies continued to pressure for the tying goal, but Orlando's defense was able to withstand a final push by the NASL side.
If the Rowdies win by one goal in the second leg, the series will be decided by penalty kicks. If Tampa Bay wins by two goals or more, the Rowdies will be the champions of the 2013 I-4 Derby Presented by United World Soccer. If the Rowdies draw or lose the second leg, Orlando will be crowned the 2013 champions.
The Rowdies and the Lions will battle it out in the second leg of the I-4 Derby Presented by United World Soccer on Saturday, March 30 at Al Lang Stadium. Fans can purchase their tickets for the second leg of the I-4 Derby at Al Lang by clicking here or by calling the front office at 813-287-1539.
Tampa Bay: Amani Walker - 17th Minute
Orlando: Jamie Watson - 49th Minute
Orlando: James O’Connor - 58th Minute
Orlando: Jean Alexandre -70th MInute
Tampa Bay: Luke Mulholland -75th Minute
Tampa Bay: Takuya Yamada - 13th Minute
Orlando: Luke Boden - 39th Minute
GK Andrew Fontein; D Daniel Scott (Georgi Hristov 56'), D Jay Needham, D Andres Arango (Jordan Gafa 79'); M Takuya Yamada, M Stuart Campbell, M Shane Hill, M Raphael Cox; M Evans Frimpong, M Luke Mulholland; F Amani Walker
GK Miguel Gallardo, D Bryan Burke, D Luke Boden, D Oumar Diakhite, D Rob Valentino, M Adama Mbengue (Jonathan Mendoza 79'), M Freddie Braun, M James O’Connor, M Jamie Watson, F Jean Alexandre, F Long Tan
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