The incentive of playing the in-state rival still didn’t help the Fort Lauderdale Strikers shake off their early-season slump.
Luke Mulholland and Alex Dixon scored goals to lead the Tampa Bay Rowdies to a 2-1 victory over the Strikers before a crowd of 4,563 Saturday night at Lockhart Stadium.
After a season-opening draw, the Strikers have lost their last three matches and remain last in the NASL table.
“It’s frustrating because we had a good start to the game and then from about the 30th minute to about the 40th minute I felt we started to let the game slip away from us,” Strikers head coach Daryl Shore said.
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead on Mulholland’s goal in the 42nd minute. Mulholland blasted a shot from 25 yards that bounced off the left post and into the open net past Strikers’ goalkeeper Matt Glaeser.
Shore then replaced Glaeser, the team’s regular goalkeeper the past three years, with Cody Laurendi. Glaeser allowed a combined five goals in Fort Lauderdale’s losses against Atlanta and Carolina.
But Laurendi sustained an injury to his rib area and left the match after he collided with Tampa Bay forward Giorgi Hirstov while pursuing a loose ball in the 29th minute. Laurendi was taken to a nearby hospital for observation.
“We felt Cody had been pushing Matt all along and had a couple of good weeks of training and we had a couple of bad results,” Shore said. “We felt Cody deserved his chance. To be fair, up until the injury, he was doing very well.”
Walter Restrepo entered the match in the 46th minute and gave the Strikers an instant offensive push. Restrepo often dribbled freely on the right wing area and sent repeated crossing passes toward the six-yard box.
Fort Lauderdale had a scoring threat in the 61st minute, when Stefan Dimitrov’s header from 10 yards out sailed above the crossbar. Pecka took an 18-yard shot that was stopped by Rowdies’ goalkeeper Diego Restrepo in the 66th minute.
The Rowdies dodged the Strikers’ attempts and countered on Dixon’s goal in the 78th minute. Hristov sent a pass from the left wing toward the near post, where an open Dixon beat Glaeser with a tap-in shot from six yards.
The Strikers finally broke through on Restrepo’s goal in the 80th minute. Restrepo beat Rowdies’ goalkeeper Diego Restrepo to a loose ball outside the large area on the right wing. Walter Restrepo caught Diego Restrepo out of position with an arcing shot that landed into the unprotected net.
Dimitrov came close again during second-half stoppage time, when his game-tying attempt rolled a couple of feet off the left post.
“We had most of the goal scoring opportunities while they attacked twice and scored twice,” Walter Restrepo said. “That’s football.”