Rowdies shock Sounders to advance in U.S. Open Cup
ST. PETERSBURG -
Diego Restrepo dove to his right, deflected a shot and Tampa Bay cheered.
Restrepo, goalkeeper for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, provided the biggest moment of a special night as the Rowdies upset Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders 1-0 to advance to the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Playing against a team that, on paper, they shouldn’t have been able to beat, the Rowdies excelled Wednesday night in front of 4,124 fans at Al Lang Stadium.
“All credit to the players tonight,” Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. “All credit to the fans who came down because they really made it a night to remember for the organization.”
The Rowdies led 1-0 in the 85th minute when Seattle rallied and created a scrum in front of the Tampa Bay net that nearly resulted in the equalizing goal. Defender Jordan Gafa, standing on the goal line, used his hands to save a Seattle shot, earning himself a dismissal from the match, but also preserving the Rowdies’ lead, at least temporarily.
Seattle was awarded a penalty kick, which Nigerian star Obafemi Martins stepped up to take.
Martins shot low and to Restrepo’s right, but the diving goalkeeper was there to push the ball away and preserve the Rowdies’ lead. Restrepo also saved a penalty kick in the Rowdies’ Open Cup match against VSI Tampa Bay last week.
“(Rowdies midfielder) Shane Hill told me (Martins) always goes there,” Restrepo said. “I went with Shane and thankfully, he put it there. It was good help.”
The Rowdies, playing down a man, still had to survive the final five minutes, plus five minutes of extra time, but they did, advancing to the fourth round of Open Cup.
Seattle had played in four consecutive Open Cup finals, winning three consecutive titles from 2009-2011, before crashing out at the hands of the Rowdies.
“I told them in our team talk that I believe we can go a long way in the competition if we play with the same concentration, focus and determination that I think they’re capable of,” Hill said.
Bulgarian Georgi Hristov gave the Rowdies a 1-0 lead 10 minutes prior to Restrepo’s penalty save.
In his past three games, Hristov has five goals.
“For me, I don’t care what type of game we’re playing,” Hristov said. “I try to give 100 percent to show what I can do.”
The Rowdies now look forward to meeting either MLS’ Portland Timbers or third-tier USL PRO’s Wilmington Hammerheads in the fourth round.
The Carolina RailHawks are the only other NASL team remaining in the field after they beat MLS team L.A. Galaxy 2-0 on Wednesday night.