For the second straight round, The Villages SC were part of a 6-0 result. However, instead of the drubbing they dealt Orlando FC Wolves in the First Round off the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the USL League Two side was on the opposite end of the scoreline. The Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL Championship scored early and often en route to a Second Round victory.
An announced crowd of 2,579 witnessed a rematch of the Second Round of the last US Open Cup that was played back in 2019, also played at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Rowdies also won that match convincingly, by the score of 4-1.
Having cruised to a 3-0 lead on the back of two first-half goals from Lucky Mkosana — both assisted by Kyle Greig — Tampa Bay turned its attention towards some history for the club, handing professional debuts to just-signed Academy players Tate Johnson and Santi Castaneda.
“The most important thing was to move on to the next round,” said Rowdies head coach Neill Collins. “I thought it was important for two reasons. The players, I think they want that opportunity to play against the best. And for our fans. I get the impression they want us to progress and have those nights in the Open Cup hopefully here at Al Lang. So I’m pleased we’re on to the next round. Any night you can have the opportunity to give two young players that trained with us for two months and played in preseason games their professional debuts, that’s a good night.”
Also making their mark on the scoresheet were Jordan Scarlett, heading in a cross from Jake Areman in the 36th minute; Kyle Greig, getting to another cross put in by Areman in the 53rd; Jake LaCava in the 63rd, hammering home shortly after being introduced as a second-half sub; and Laurence Wyke in the 73rd. The midfielder made a run down the right side before turning in and lobbing the ball at the near post, where Gried just missed out on tapping home, but a moment’s hesitation by the GK meant that Wyke’s ball found it’s way across the line. The six-goal outburst set a new club record for goals scored in an Open Cup match, surpassing the four Tampa Bay scored previously against The Villages in 2019.
“We had a vision going into the game,” Mkosana said. “Neill told us to press from the front and we were able to keep that organization. Everything came from just playing and taking our chances. It was a really good effort from the team.”
Despite the scoreline, the visitors put up a valiant effort and created several chances for themselves, most notably around the 30th minute, but were unable to give their contingent of traveling supporters something to celebrate.
Tampa Bay will now wait until Friday to learn it Third Round opponent and will undoubtedly hope to be handed an opportunity to host an MLS side at Al Lang Stadium, where the club is currently undefeated in its previous five Open Cup matches.