ST. PETERSBURG — After a 3-0 start at Al Lang Stadium, things were bound to be a little less smooth when the Rowdies hit the road for a pair of games last week.
Tampa Bay managed just one point from two matches, so being back on home turf to face Charleston tonight is a relief.
"Yeah, happy to be back home. Obviously great to play in front of our fans again," coach Stuart Campbell said.
Tampa Bay (3-1-1, 10 points) is tied with Louisville and St. Louis for first in the USL's Eastern Conference, but Louisville, which defeated the Rowdies last weekend, has played one fewer game. So has tonight's opponent, the Battery (3-0-1, one point back).
And Charleston owns the best goal differential in the conference (plus-7) with a forward, Romario Williams, coming off a hat trick that needed only 11 minutes.
"Definitely concerned. They've got pace, they create a lot of chances, they've got a lot of speed and strength," Campbell said. "We're gonna have to be at our utmost best to go out there and get a result — but we're confident we can go out there and do that."
Last Saturday at Louisville, Tampa Bay fell behind 2-0 and, despite a late goal, lost 2-1.
Then it was off to the artificial turf of Cincinnati, where Tampa Bay drew 1-1.
The Rowdies' goal, a 35-yarder by Marcel Schafer for his first with the club, grabbed the No. 2 spot on SportsCenter's top 10.
"It deserved to be so. But good luck following it up with a second one," Campbell said. "It was a cracking strike. I had a great view of it from the bench. The minute it left his foot I said, 'What a goal', (as) I saw it rocket."
Schafer said he has been happy about the national attention, only wishing it had been followed by a victory.
"Our most important thing is to get three points and, just one point in Cincinnati so we are not 100 percent satisfied," he said.
Matt Pickens received his first start in goal Wednesday, as Akira Fitzgerald was hurt early against Louisville. With a three-game week, Campbell did not start either of his top two scorers, though Joe Cole and Georgi Hristov came off the bench.
"We had a tough road trip against two very tough opponents," said Schafer. "It's always important to win at home, especially when you want to be one of the top teams. And that's our aim."