ST. PETERSBURG -- On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Rowdies eliminated the three-time champion Seattle Sounders FC 1-0 at the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Third Round in front of more than 4,100 fans at St. Petersburg's Al Lang Stadium. Forward Georgi Hristov put the Rowdies up 1-0 in the 75th minute after tapping in a rebound from Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnermann. Goalkeeper Diego Restrepo made a game-changing save in the 86th minute, denying forward Obafemi Martins from the penalty spot.
After forward Georgi Hristov’s goal, excitement was running throughout Al Lang Stadium, but 10 minutes later it all came to a halt. Sounders forward Obafemi Martins had just come off the bench, and was now in charge of leveling the match from the penalty spot. It was Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo who denied the Nigerian international with a diving save to his right.
“I had a good feeling about the penalty kick," said Restrepo ."It’s every keeper's dream to be able to stop a penalty in a big match but most importantly I'm very proud of the guys on how hard we fought for it. Now we move on to play Portland and it's going to be an exciting match, not only because of the atmosphere, but it's another chance to prove ourselves against the best teams in the country.”
"It was an amazing effort by the guys," commented Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. "We came out and gave it our all tonight and it showed on the pitch. I am happy for our players, but I am also very happy for our fans who were supporting us along the way."
The encounter saw the Rowdies pressure early on as they looked to not let the Sounders keep the ball at any moment. Tampa Bay picked up several corners in the first half hour of play that Seattle's goalkeeper Hahnemann had no trouble cutting down on.
It was midfielder Shane Hill who had the first chance to put the Rowdies ahead. His strike came from 25 yards out in the 45th minute, but once again Hahnemann was able to comfortable come up with the save.
In a first half that was back-and-forth, Tampa Bay's defense was able to overcome Seattle's pressure. The Rowdies handled the Sounders attack with a strong performance from the back line.
The second half began to open up as Seattle mounted an attack on the Rowdies’ goal. The Rowdies began to find more space when they were in possession of the ball. Things began to go back and forth as the teams traded possession of the ball and began to attack each other.
Tampa Bay opened the scoring in the 75th minute as Luke Mulholland broke into the box and unleashed a shot on Marcus Hahnemann’s net which forced the keeper to give up a rebound which landed perfectly for Hristov to tap in.
"We knew we would have our chances," said Hill. "Luckily Georgi was on the end of that rebound to push the ball in the net. Our defense was very solid today and we were able to withstand the final push from the Sounders. All credit to the players for showing everyone why they deserved to win."
Things ended crazily as Seattle was presented with a perfect chance to equalize when they were awarded a penalty kick in the dying minutes of the game after a scrum in front of Restrepo’s goal. Jordan Gafa received a red card in the process. Restrepo ultimately dove to his right and saved the kick. The Rowdies endured Seattle’s barrage of pressure to close the game and move onto the fourth round of the cup.
"Defensively we played one of our best matches," explained defender Daniel Scott. "What Diego did at goal was amazing, and his confidence is showing more and more as the season goes on. Coming out here and upsetting an MLS team was what we had planned from the start, but we could not do this without the great support of our crowd."
“Beating Seattle was a great result for our club and it took everyone on our team and staff, and the unbelievable support from our fans on a weeknight to get the win,” explained midfielder Keith Savage. “I am excited to go back to my old club Portland, one of the best teams in MLS this season, and one of the best atmospheres in the game right now.”
With the win, the Rowdies will travel to play either the Portland Timbers (MLS) (Wednesday, June 12) or Wilmington Hammerheads (USL PRO) (TBD) in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. It is known that home-field advantage plays a huge role in cup matches, and last night was a clear example of this.
“The fans got behind us at home which was huge for us,” said midfielder Raphael Cox. “You could really feel them helping us the entire match. Now we travel to Portland in the next round, knowing it will be very difficult because they have great supporters as well. We hope to see our fans make the trip and help us overcome another difficult hurdle.”
|Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov after scoring the game-winning goal|
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov - 75th minute
Seattle: Alex Caskey - 52nd minute
Tampa Bay: Jordan Gafa - 84th minute
Seattle: Mario Martinez - 90th minute
GK Diego Restrepo; D Jordan Gafa, D Daniel Scott, D Takuya Yamada (C), D Andres Arango; M Luke Mulholland, M Shane Hill, M Keith Savage, M Raphael Cox; F Georgi Hristov, F Devin Del Do (Mike Ambersley 64')
Tampa Bay will have two league matches on the road, with the first one against FC Edmonton on Sunday, June 2 at 4:00 p.m. ET and the second match against the Carolina RailHawks on Saturday, June 8 at 7:00 p.m. ET. The Rowdies will return home to play San Antonio on Saturday, June 15th at Al Lang Stadium. For information on 2013 season tickets or individual tickets contact the front office at 813-287-1539 or email@example.com.
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