Childhood leukemia survivor Marissa Peddie stood in front of more than 6,000 fans at Al Lang Stadium to sing the national anthem on Saturday.
Peddie, 11, sang as part of the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Go Gold night in support of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Rowdies team owner Bill Edwards pledged to donate money to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and its pediatric cancer research efforts if there was a sellout crowd or a Rowdies win. Midfielder Joe Cole agreed to donate an additional $1,000 for every goal the Rowdies scored.
All Children’s patients and their families, sporting #GoldTogether shirts, were given the opportunity to interact with Rowdies players during the pregame.
By the end of the night, a Rowdies 1-0 win over the Carolina RailHawks (8-6-10) granted All Children’s Hospital a total of $16,000. While the crowd wasn’t a full sellout, Edwards donated the promised $10,000 anyway.
Even though Childhood Cancer Awareness Month concludes at the end of September, Edwards announced that the Rowdies will extend the same donation offer of $10,000 per Rowdies win and $5,000 for sellout games to each of their four remaining home games this season.
The RailHawks and the Rowdies are two of the eight North American Soccer League teams that are supporting the Go Gold cause. The RailHawks will host their own Go Gold night Sept. 24.
Historically, the Rowdies have struggled against the RailHawks, winning only five games against them in the span of 24 seasons.
Before Saturday night’s victory, the Rowdies had not won a game against Carolina in 2016, losing by a combined score of 7-2. Three of Carolina’s points in those matches came from penalty shots, so it was crucial for the Rowdies to avoid costly foul trouble.
Both teams struggled offensively in their previous matches and failed to score a goal. The RailHawks fell to Miami FC on Wednesday night and the Rowdies drew a scoreless game against Puerto Rico FC last Saturday.
The 1-0 final score was not indicative of the aggressive Rowdies offense on Saturday night.
From start to finish, Tampa Bay played a focused game and dominated offensive possession. The Rowdies took 12 shots in the first half and restricted the RailHawks to just five shots.
Despite taking more shots than the RailHawks, the Rowdies had trouble with shot accuracy and passing while in enemy territory. Poor timing and awareness caused the Rowdies to miss out on numerous scoring opportunities.
Tampa Bay’s woes can be attributed to a persistent Carolina defense.
The RailHawks quickly recovered from fast break situations and were able to pressure the Rowdies into committing mistakes. However, the RailHawks failed to create any offensive momentum.
Carolina midfielder Nazmi Albadawi leads the NASL in assists, but was unable to demonstrate his ability on Saturday. He was restricted to one assist on a shot that was saved by Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
Pickens recorded his eighth clean sheet of the season.
The only goal of the night came from a Darnell King assist to midfielder Eric Avila in the 22nd minute of the match. He dribbled quickly toward the goal, drawing three defenders onto him. The RailHawks, anxious to cover a threatening King, left a huge hole in their defense, and Avila scored on King’s pass from about 6 yards out.
“We can’t rest,” said Rowdies head coach Stuart Campbell during a halftime interview.
While the Rowdies certainly didn’t rest in the second half, it was played at a much slower pace than the first. The Rowdies only took eight shots at the goal in the second half and the RailHawks were limited to just two.
One of Tampa Bay’s second-half shots came early in the second half. Cole nearly cost himself another $1,000 by sending a shot at the goal that was just barely deflected by Brian Sylvestre, the RailHawks goalkeeper.
In the 86th minute, another nearly-made shot by forward Carlos Preciado sailed above Sylvestre’s reach but bounced off of the crossbar.
Both of Carolina’s second-half shots came in the extra minutes played after the end of regulation.
With Saturday’s win, the Rowdies improved to an 8-8-8 combined NASL record and earned three points in the NASL standings. The Rowdies are now only four points away from the fourth place spot. They were aided by Miami FC and Minnesota United FC losses.
The Rowdies have eight games left before the end of the season and still need to climb two spots in order to compete in the four-team NASL Championship.
All four of the Rowdies’ remaining home games are crucial, as the four teams they will face are all currently ranked above them in the NASL standings.
USF St. Petersburg students can purchase Rowdies home game tickets for $10 each.
Tampa Bay will take travel to take on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (8-8-8) next Saturday. The Rowdies have defeated the Strikers in both of their previous matches this year. Both teams are tied at 32 NASL points.
Get Rowdy With The Rowdies!
Upcoming Home Games:
Vs. Miami FC (10/1)
Vs. Minnesota United FC (10/5)
Vs. Indy Eleven (10/19)
Vs. Ottawa Fury FC (10/22)