ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 17, 2016) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies are in the win column after Saturday night’s dramatic 1-0 win over FC Edmonton at Al Lang Stadium. After two draws to open the season, Tampa Bay has moved up to five points through three matches in the Spring Season. With that in mind, here are a few things of note from Saturday’s win.
1. Matt Pickens is clutch
It’s rare that goalkeepers are put into position to be a match winner for their team, but Matt Pickens was definitely a match winner for the Rowdies on Saturday night. Tampa Bay was just seconds away from finishing out a 1-0 win over FC Edmonton when Neill Collins was adjudged to have committed a handball in the 18-yard box and the Eddies were awarded a penalty.
— Tampa Bay Rowdies (@TampaBayRowdies) April 17, 2016
In his three seasons with the Rowdies, Pickens has earned a reputation as a penalty specialist — a reputation he lived up to Saturday night in a heroic last-second performance.
Pickens recorded four saves on the night to keep his second clean sheet in three matches to start the season. His goals-against-average of 0.33 is the best among NASL goalkeepers that have played three matches this season.
2. The 4-2-3-1 formation held
Tampa Bay’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation asserted its dominance over the Eddies on Saturday night. Though the 1-0 scoreline suggests a close match, at times, the Rowdies really dominated for long spells of the match. The Rowdies dominated possession, holding the ball for a commanding 66.2 percent of the match. The first half was even more lopsided, with Tampa Bay keeping the ball for 74.3 percent of the half.
The Rowdies passed circles around FC Edmonton as well, completing 504 passes, nearly double the Eddies’ 256, and with a higher completion percentage as well, 81.9 percent to 69.1 percent.
With possession and passing well in the Rowdies’ favor, the average position chart clearly shows the 4-2-3-1 formation. In the first two matches of the season, forward Tommy Heinemann had to drop deep in midfield to get involved, but Saturday night, his average position clearly showed him as the lone forward ahead of the midfielders.
3. Louis Murphy was impressed
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Louis Murphy served as the honorary captain Saturday night and seemed impressed with the Rowdies experience. The St. Pete native helped the referees with the coin toss and then sat near the fourth officials’ table for the first part of the game to observe professional soccer from field level.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) April 16, 2016
Murphy was engaged in the match, asking a lot of questions and showing genuine interest in learning as much as possible about the sport. He was particularly impressed with the support of Ralph’s Mob, asking if they really sing their support for the entire 90 minutes and praising them.
We’ll chalk that up as a #TeamTampaBay success.
4′ Louis Murphy at the 4th officials’ table: “Is @RalphsMob loud like that the whole game? That’s what’s up.”
— Rowdies Gameday (@RowdiesGameday) April 16, 2016