While the Rowdies past is rich in tradition and history, Tampa Bay’s involvement in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup dates back to only 2010. For the first time in franchise history, the reigning NASL Champions have reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
When the Tampa Bay returned to professional soccer in 2010 as FC Tampa Bay, it would also be their debut in the U.S. Open Cup. A 3-0 victory in the first round over Legends FC, meant a matchup against league rivals Miami FC. Tampa Bay were unable to grab the ticket into the third round, as Miami earned a 2-1 win in extra time. The dramatic loss against Miami ended the club’s run in the U.S. Open Cup.
With the creation of the North American Soccer League, the clubs involved in the new league would not participate in the 2011 edition, but they would make their return in 2012.
As the Tampa Bay Rowdies, they entered the 2012 U.S. Open Cup in the second round, where they defeated Jacksonville United 3-0 and advanced to the third round to host MLS’ Colorado Rapids. Although Tampa Bay created various scoring chances throughout the match, they were unable to advance in the cup once again, losing the match 3-1.
After gaining national exposure through the 2012 NASL Soccer Bowl Championship and participating in the 2013 Disney Pro Soccer Classic, the Rowdies had another chance to showcase the club at a national level when they reached the third round of the 2013 U.S. Open Cup. Tampa Bay entered the cup in the second round, where they earned a 2-1 victory over VSI Tampa Bay FC. With the win, Tampa Bay would once again host a MLS team at Al Lang. This time the rival was the three-time Open Cup Champion Seattle Sounders, a club that had reached the semifinals every year since 2006.
On Wednesday, May 29th, Tampa Bay hosted former NASL rival’s Seattle and from the get-go made it clear to last year’s runner up that it was not going to be an easy match. After sharing possession for most of the first half, Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov scored a memorable goal in the 75th minute to put the home team up 1-0.
The last 15 minutes of the match felt like an eternity to those who were present at Al Lang Stadium that night. To make matters worse, with just over five minutes left Rowdies defender Jordan Gafa was sent off for a handball clearance off the line.
Down a man, and with Nigerian international Obafemi Martins lined up to take the penalty kick, it seemed like the match was far from over. It was goalkeeper Diego Restrepo who made sure the match ended with the Rowdies advancing to the fourth round. A diving save to his right sent the ball out for a corner kick, brought Al Lang Stadium to its feet. The rest was history. The final whistle blew, with the Rowdies ending Seattle’s 22-game unbeaten streak in regulation in the Open Cup.
This Wednesday gives Tampa Bay another chance to cause a stir in the soccer world, when they visit JELD-WEN Field to face the Timbers. It won’t bet he first time these two teams have met, as they share a rich history that dates back to the 1970’s when both teams battled it out in the original North American Soccer League.
The fourth round match kicks off at 10:30 p.m. ET at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, OR. To watch the live broadcast of this historic match, click here.
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