ST. PETERSBURG – The Tampa Bay Rowdies and FC Edmonton shared the points after a 1-1 draw on a dramatic opening night of the 2014 North American Soccer League Spring Season on Saturday night.
“I felt that we worked hard and dug in,” Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. “The second half opened a little bit more and I felt that half was a lot better. We managed to string a few passes together and make a few moves. We still have to be a little bit braver collectively in terms of keeping possession of the ball.”
The Rowdies pulled ahead in the 32nd minute on an own goal by Edmonton defender Kareem Moses. Tampa Bay midfielder Darel Russell floated a dangerous ball into the Edmonton box and Moses, under pressure, deflected the ball into his own net.
FC Edmonton looked beaten until a late equalizer created in large part by Daryl Fordyce. Fordyce raced down the right wing and looped in a perfect cross to second-half substitute Tomi Ameobi, who headed home to level the match in the 88th minute.
It was a choppy start to the match, with neither team really settling in to the first match of the 2014 season. FC Edmonton had the better of the early chances, with the first shot of the match coming in the 8th minute. New Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens was there for an easy catch and the danger was averted.
Edmonton had another strong scoring chance with a two-on-one in the 28th minute, but Horace James’ pass across the face of goal was behind its target and cleared by the defense.
With the Rowdies up 1-0 at halftime, FC Edmonton came out the stronger side after the break. The match nearly turned when Pickens was adjudged to have committed a foul on Eddies forward Frank Jonke in the 54th minute and Edmonton was awarded a penalty kick.
Pickens stood strong on the kick, diving right to save Neil Hlavaty’s effort and preserving the Rowdies’ lead.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Pickens said of the result. “In any league, these are all dogfights. The first month of the season is going to be like this. We’re super disappointed not to get three points and to give away a pretty cheap goal late in the game. We got a point and we’ve got to move on.”
The final five minutes were played end-to-end with the Rowdies piling on pressure in their search of a match-winner and Edmonton replying on fast breaks. Neither team could find the goal and nab all three points before the full-time whistle.
“I’m happy with the effort and the commitment for sure, but can we do better offensively? Of course we can,” Hill said. “We changed it, we brought on Casey (Townsend) and we brought on Lucky (Mkosana) and they had an impact straight away, which was nice. It’s a shame we couldn’t hold out for that goal, but nevermind. We got a point. We’ll move on to next week.”
The Rowdies now travel to Indianapolis for a meeting with the Indy Eleven next Saturday night, April 19.
Rowdies: Kareem Moses - 32nd minute (Own Goal)
FC Edmonton: Tomi Ameobi- 88th minute (Assisted by Daryl Fordyce)
Rowdies: Darel Russell - 18th minute
FC Edmonton: Albert Watson- 61st minute
FC Edmonton: Mallan Roberts- 64th minute
Rowdies: Brian Shriver- 77th minute
FC Edmonton: Neil Hlavaty- 86th minute
Tampa Bay Rowdies: GK Matt Pickens; D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D J.P. Rodrigues, D Takuya Yamada, D Blake Wagner; M Shane Hill, M Darel Russell, M Anthony Wallace (Lucky Mkosana 71'); F Evans Frimpong, F Brian Shriver (Casey Townsend 82'), F Georgi Hristov
FC Edmonton: GK John Smits ; D Kareem Moses, D Albert Watson (Captain), D Mallan Roberts (Michael Nonni 84'), D Lance Laing; M Neil Hlavaty, M Milton Blanco (Hanson Boaki 80'), M Horace James (Tomi Ameobi 74'), M Ritchie Jones, M Daryl Fordyce; F Frank Jonke
The Rowdies will play their first away game next Saturday against one of the newest clubs in the NASL, Indy Eleven, at Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. Tampa Bay will return home on Saturday, April 26 when the face the Atlanta Silverbacks at Al Lang Stadium with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. Call (877) ROWDIES to secure your seats for the Rowdies second home match of the season.
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