Photo courtesy FC Cincinnati
CINCINNATI – As he picked up possession inside the center circle, seven minutes in, the field opened up perfectly for the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Marcel Schäfer.
So perfectly, in fact, that the man who had scored only 12 times in 223 Bundesliga appearances for VfL Wolfsburg decided it was too good a chance to pass up, 35 yards from goal.
“I had a perfect angle with my left foot so I decided to take a chance,” said Schäfer. “Luckily it went as planned and I scored my first goal with the Rowdies.”
Schäfer’s early blast gave the Rowdies an ideal start on the road against FC Cincinnati on Wednesday night, quieting a crowd of 15,227 at Nippert Stadium early on in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3 that ended in a 1-1 draw between the USL Eastern Conference powers.
As great as the goal was, the Rowdies were unable to take full advantage in their second tough road game in the span of five days. Schafer’s effort proved the only shot Tampa Bay produced in the first half as the side had solid spells of possession, but were unable to find additional chances to let fly on FCC goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt’s goal.
Nine minutes before the halftime break Cincinnati found an equalizer as Harrison Delbridge skied to head home a Kenney Walker corner kick to leave the game level at the break.
"I felt that after our goal, we stopped playing the way we know how to play and that cost us," said Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell. "We defended well when they put the pressure on us, which is a positive takeaway.”
Delbridge’s goal aside, the Rowdies’ defense put in a solid display overall. The center back duo of Damion Lowe and Neill Collins bottled up reigning USL Player of the Week and league-leading scorer Djiby Fall, who had only one half-chance at goal that squibbed well wide in the first half. Collins was strong throughout, winning 6-of-7 duels, 5-of-6 aerial duels and recording three clearances.
Tampa Bay then got a chance to play up a man for the final 15 minutes as Cincinnati’s Kadeem Dacres was shown a red card for his challenge on Deshorn Brown. The Rowdies pressed, Justin Chavez having a fierce shot deflected wide, Martin Paterson seeing a late chance blocked and Schäfer having another go from distance in stoppage time fly high. In the end the visitors were pleased to take a point home from a tough outing.
"After they get the red card, the game opened up for us and we were able to get a few chances," said Campbell. "I think we could've won the game at the end but we were missing the final touch. All-in-all, a draw is still a positive result."