The Tampa Bay Rowdies scored goals in stoppage time at the end of the first half and at the end of the second half to beat the undermanned Hartford Athletic Saturday night, 2-1 in USL Championship action at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The win, coupled with a loss by Miami FC, clinched a playoff spot for the Rowdies, now 15-6-5 and second place in the Eastern Conference behind Pittsburgh. It will be Tampa Bay’s fifth straight playoff berth.
Once again, a heroic effort by the Athletic was spoiled in the waning minutes of the contest, a bitter and consistent theme this season. Hartford (4-19-4) had 12 players test positive for COVID-19 during the week and had to sign Maryvn Dorchin from the National Premier Soccer League on Friday to have a professional goalie in net.
Tied at 1-1 and looking to pick up a point, the Rowdies found a way to take it away from Hartford in the final minutes of the contest.
In the first minute of second half stoppage time, Tampa Bay midfielder Jordan Doherty whipped in a dangerous cross from the right flank for Lucky Mkosana at the near post. The play was broken up at the near post, but the rebound fell favorably for Tampa Bay’s Ariel Martinez. The veteran took one touch to create space and then slammed his second touch past Dorchin.
Martinez formerly played for the Athletic.
“Both goals were top goals, probably our only two real moments of magic on the night. The pass from Charlie and the run and then finish from Cal was unbelievable. Ariel’s goal was equally as good, to have that skill and composure late in the game,” Tampa Bay coach Nicky Law said.
The Rowdies tied the game at 1-1 at the end of the first half in stoppage time.
After neutralizing a Hartford corner kick in the second minute of first half stoppage time, the ball fell for Rowdies midfielder Charlie Dennis. Scanning down the field, Dennis used his first touch to launch a long ball forward for Cal Jennings to collect. Jennings charged into the final third, cut inside to his left, and rocketed a shot into the top left corner.
Hartford got off to a quick start in the game as Elvis Amoh gave them the lead with an excellent goal in the 13th minute. He received a pass from Andre Lewis in the attacking third, made a quick turn to lose his defender, and charged toward goal. From the top of the box, he blasted his shot into the top left corner of the net, giving goalkeeper Connor Sparrow no chance to make the save. The highlight-reel goal was Amoh’s fifth of the season.
Hartford began the second half defending a determined Tampa Bay attack, and Dorchin came up with a sprawling tackle to deny Cal Jennings and keep his team level in the 57th minute. Six minutes later, Hartford responded with a scoring chance of their own. Andre Lewis led a ball into the box for Antoine Hoppenot, but Hoppenot’s shot missed the net on the near side.
Dorchin had an active night in his USL Championship debut. He made just one save, but had two clearances, won a tackle, and was aggressive off his line to punch several crosses out of the air. The French keeper is on a 25-day contract with the club that started Saturday. Defender Niall Logue had an active night on the back line for Hartford as well, making eight clearances.
Hartford Athletic return home to face Rio Grande Valley FC Toros on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay 2, Hartford 1
Hartford (4-19-4) 1 0 — 1
Tampa Bay (15-6-5) 1 1 — 2
Goals: Hartford: 13′ – Amoh (Lewis); Tampa Bay: 45+1′ Jennings (Dennis); Tampa Bay: 90′ – Martínez; Shots: Tampa Bay, 9-6; Shots on target: Tampa Bay, 3-1; Corners: Tampa Bay 10-4; Offsides: Tampa Bay 4-1; Possession: Tampa Bay 70.1, Hartford 29.9; Saves: Marvyn Dorchin (H) 1, Connor Sparrow (TB) 0
Hartford — 0 (GK) Marvyn Dorchin, 5 (DF) Triston Hodge, 72 (DF) Edgardo Rito, 9 (FW) Elvis Amoh (Edwards, 83′); 29 (FW) Antoine Hoppenot, 10 (MF) Danny Barrera, 19 (DF) Luke Merrill, 50 (DF) Niall Logue (Bloyou, 90+3′); 22 (DF) Robin Lapert, 14 (DF) Ash Apollon (Dobruna, 70′); 77 (MF) Andre Lewis
Tampa Bay — 1 (GK) Connor Sparrow, 33 (DF) Aarón Guillén, 3 (DF) Forrest Lasso, 19 (DF) Freddy Kleemann (Williams, 56′); 2 (DF) Conner Antley, 21 (MF) Dayonn Harris (Pérez, 56′); 4 (DF) Lewis Hilton (Ekra, 68′); 22 (MF) Jordan Doherty, 14 (MF) Charlie Dennis, 26 (FW) Cal Jennings (Mkosana, 83′); 16 (FW) Jake LaCava (Martínez, 68′)