There were plenty of added storylines to consider as Penn FC traveled down to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Penn FC had trounced the Rowdies at home back in May, but Tampa Bay is known for their poor form on the road. The expectation was that when Penn FC visited Al Lang Stadium, the Rowdies would have a chance to get their revenge. Especially since they recently learned that it would be the final match for Marcel Schafer before he returned to Germany. But things didn’t go according to plan for the Rowdies and Penn FC spoiled the send off behind a second half brace from Lucky Mkosana.
Penn FC went with a lineup similar to what they had deployed during last week’s comeback against Louisville City. One big missing piece was Tommy Heinemann, who might still be getting through a knock he picked up during the match against the Richmond Kickers. Issac Osae got the start in his place as he had done a solid job at striker during the last two matches. But it was ultimately Lucky Mkosana who got the most attacking opportunities during the match.
Penn FC didn’t manage a first minute goal during this match, but that’s to be expected. They quickly settled in and the play was mostly even as the first half went on. They could have attempted to press for an early attack to take advantage of Tampa Bay goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald having to stare into the setting sun, but it didn’t work out that way. And Fitzgerald countered with a snazzy cap.
The first game changing moment came in the 34th minute courtesy of a beautiful cross by Schafer. Schafer had his man beat up the left side and sent a low cross for Leon Taylor. Ken Tribbett nearly knocked it away, but Taylor got enough of it to redirect the ball into the goal. What looked to be the entire Rowdies team and bench quickly piled onto Schafer to celebrate the assist.
The celebration ended up being relatively short lived. Schafer was brought back down to Earth in the 39th minute when he was issued a yellow card for what didn’t look like that hard of a foul. It was the first of five cards the Rowdies would receive during the match.
Raoul Voss must have had some ideas about how to change up Penn FC’s style of play and he made two key subs at the half. Aaron Dennis came on for Osae and Calvin Rezende came on for Saalih Muhammad. These changes paid off quickly in the 49th minute when Penn FC scored an equalizer courtesy of Mkosana. Rezende was responsible for the cross from the left side that Mkosana attacked at the near post. It slipped to Dan Metzger who poked it back to Mkosana before he was able to slam the ball into the back of the net just under the crossbar.
The Rowdies might have been caught napping there, but they were prepared to boost their attack as they looked to get the lead back. But their hopes took a serious hit in the 51st minute when Leon Taylor was issued a straight red card. Taylor went up for a header against Penn FC’s Harri Hawkins and his arm/elbow was away from his body just enough to make contact with Hawkins’ head. Replays made it look soft, but the head ref stood by the red and Tampa Bay would be finishing another match with only ten men.
Losing an offensive player meant that the Rowdies were still in a good position to hold on for a draw, but it was Mkosana who struck again to put Penn FC in the lead. This time it was Freddie Opoku who got some separation and crossed in from the left to Mkosana at the near post where he redirected it past a charging Fitzgeral to put Penn FC up 2-1. It was Mkosana’s second consecutive brace after he was held scoreless in his first nine appearances.
The Rowdies faced an uphill climb, but they did not give up easily. They still needed a goal to preserve their home regular season unbeaten streak and hopefully sent Schafer off in style. But Penn FC had every advantage and they were able to frustrate the ten man attack of the Rowdies while burning through much of the remaining time. It didn’t help Tampa Bay’s chances that they continued to concede fouls and they began to lose their composure as time ran out.
Penn FC burned up the clock well, although Marco Franco did pick up a yellow for time wasting. And Aaron Dennis nearly provided the dagger in the 82nd minute with an open chance in front of the net, but he sent it over the bar. The commentators indicated he may have been offside anyway. The final chance for the Rowdies came off of a corner kick in the 93rd minute when Ivan Maghalhaes headed it on frame out of the reach of Romu Peiser, but Miguel Jaime was there to head it away and preserve the win for Penn FC.
- Penn FC is currently on a solid 3-0-1 run. What’s most impressive is that they were behind at the half in three of those matches. They’ve scored multiple second half goals in each of those matches.
- So that means that Penn FC has scored multiple goals in each of the last four matches and that’s the first time they’ve done that in several years. Pretty impressive for a team that couldn’t find a way to score for most of the first half of the season.
- Lucky Mkosana’s second consecutive brace puts him in a tie for the team lead with four goals. It took him a while to find his groove again in Harrisburg, but it looks like teams will need to treat him as a serious goal scoring threat going forward.