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Rowdies rout Toronto to move to 2-0 in USL

The Rowdies’ Joe Cole splits two Toronto FC II defenders during the first half. Cole scores Tampa Bay’s third goal of the game in the 22nd minute on a pass from Marcel Schafer as the Rowdies go into halftime with a 3-0 lead for the first time in franchise history.

CHARLIE KAIJO | Times

The Rowdies’ Joe Cole splits two Toronto FC II defenders during the first half. Cole scores Tampa Bay’s third goal of the game in the 22nd minute on a pass from Marcel Schafer as the Rowdies go into halftime with a 3-0 lead for the first time in franchise history.

ST. PETERSBURG — A three-goal blitz in 10 minutes allowed the Tampa Bay Rowdies to enjoy an easy 4-0 victory over Toronto FC II before 4,326 at Al Lang on Saturday.

It was the first 4-0 result for the modern-day (since 2010) club. Tampa Bay (2-0) led 3-0 at halftime with midfielder Michael Nanchoff creating all three, getting assists for the first two and making a midfield steal that led to the other.

"For us it's about being relentless. Attack, attack, attack," Nanchoff said.

In the 12th minute, his corner kick rolled back his way and he curled a left-footer perfectly into the path of two Rowdies, defenseman Damion Lowe heading it down inside the right post. It was the 23-year-old Jamaican's fourth career professional goal.

Nanchoff's second assist was a little less precise but worked just fine eight minutes later. From the right flank, he sent a ball for midfielder Leo Fernandes at the top of the penalty box, but Fernandes let it run for Georgi Hristov. Three Toronto players raised their hands claiming offsides while a surprised-looking Hristov gathered it in for his second of the season.

"It's something we work on in training. Call it a dummy, call it a bad pass … Georgi got it," Nanchoff said.

In the 22nd minute, his clean slide tackle sent the Rowdies on a fast break, with Marcel Schafer going down the left side with two open options to his left. Schafer drilled a low left-footer to captain Joe Cole, who took it from there with a right-footed strike.

The defense held Toronto II to just one shot on target to nine for the Rowdies. The overall shot count was 16-7. Last week, Tampa Bay allowed three.

"The defense starts up front and filters down through the midfield," head coach Stu Campbell said. "At halftime we talked about being up 3-0, it's easy to lift your foot off the gas. We didn't do that."

Nanchoff nearly made it 4-0 when his 30-yard free kick smacked the crossbar in the 36th minute. The action cooled for about a half-hour before the Rowdies cranked up the offense again, Nanchoff almost getting a goal himself twice but being denied by goalkeeper Mark Pais.

"Maybe one of these days I'll get one. The important thing is we put on a show for this crowd," Nanchoff said.

Tampa Bay finished off the scoring in the 70th when Deshorn Brown, subbed in for Cole four minutes prior, converted. Brown, owner of 14 national appearances for Jamaica and a three-year MLS veteran at 26, attended UCF.

Toronto presented more of a threat in the second half but only seriously tested keeper Akira Fitzgerald once.

Rowdies rout Toronto to move to 2-0 in USL 04/01/17 [Last modified: Saturday, April 1, 2017 10:13pm]
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