ST. PETERSBURG — A chance for the Rowdies to climb up the USL standings was wasted Saturday in a 2-1 loss to Louisville before an announced 5,252 at Al Lang Stadium.
Five minutes after Tampa Bay (6-7-4, 22 points) tied the score in the second half on a goal by Junior Flemmings, who returned after missing three games with an injury, Louisville's Cameron Lancaster produced an unstoppable free kick. It was his ninth goal of the season, a right-footed bender from 25 yards out.
"We created far more clear-cut opportunities," said Rowdies coach Neill Collins, whose club has two wins (both against winless Toronto FC II) in its past 11 games. "But it's not about creating chances, it's about putting them in the back of the net."
Goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh kept Louisville on top with two reflex saves late, denying Martin Vingaard's strike, then diving to tap wide a header from substitute Stefano Bonomo.
While Louisville (8-3-5, 29 points) is the USL's defending champion, it hadn't won since May 26. The visitors looked more like the former early, controlling first-half possession and converting midway through the first half after Kyle Smith scored his second goal of the season.
The Rowdies nearly tied it in the 34th minute, but Sebastian Guenzatti couldn't connect as the ball came to him on the goal line. Flemmings' left-footed goal in the 71st minute came off a headed pass by Bonomo.
Rowdies captain Joe Cole and their all-time scoring leader, Georgi Hristov, did not play after playing Wednesday against Toronto.