The game was the cornerstone of the Tom Fitzgerald Soccer Festival, an event to honor the late Thomas Fitzgerald. Considered the father of Tampa soccer, Fitzgerald was head coach of UT and led them to their first national championship. Fitzgerald was the mentor of current head coach Adrien Bush, who took over coaching the Spartans after Fitzgerald’s untimely death in a motorcycle accident in 2004.In honor of Fitzgerald’s legacy, every year the Spartans face off against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
This year’s game was fairly one-sided as the Rowdies imposed themselves on the match early and dominated the pitch from start to finish. The first goal came for the Rowdies after a corner kick connected with a Rowdies header giving them an early 1-0 lead. The Spartans began to unravel in the defense and allowed a penalty shortly after the first goal. The penalty was converted by the Rowdies and the Spartans found themselves in a 2-0 deficit.
The experience between the two teams showed in the third goal scored by the Rowdies. The Rowdies caught the UT keeper out of position and scored from over 30 feet out with strike that soared over the keeper into the net. The Spartans were down 3-0 entering the half and the starting Rowdies squad was completely overhauled with their second team. The second half took off right where the first half ended, with the Rowdies controlling possession.
However, the Spartans began to find more and more opportunities to score with set pieces. The Spartans were finally able to score after a quick counter and junior forward Christian Campbell was able to score and put the game at 3-1. The rest of the second half went on without incident as both keepers delivered a series of saves. The game was winding down and a final push by the Rowdies earned them a goal in stoppage time and the game ended 4-1.
Marcus Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org