Win streak halted with 2-1 loss at Minnesota
The Rowdies saw their four-match winning streak halted Thursday night in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Stars FC at NSC Stadium. Tampa Bay rallied to cut Minnesota's lead in half with a second half goal by forward Matt Clare, but the Stars held on for their first regular season victory over the Rowdies since the 2010 season.
"I thought our players worked valiantly to come back in the game and try to tie the score," said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. "We feel very disappointed with the result, but I am hoping we can rise to the challenge ahead on Sunday in Edmonton."
The Rowdies had their best opportunities in the first half about 20 minutes into the match. Forward Fafa Picault and defender Frankie Sanfilippo both had scoring chances on two separate occasions, but Minnesota goalkeeper Matt VanOekel made good saves on each.
A few minutes later, Tampa Bay goalkeeper Jeff Attinella made a point blank save on Stars midfielder Kevin Venegas to keep the match scoreless.
The Stars broke the draw in the 30th minute when forward Martin Nunez beat Attinella from inside the box after a pass from midfielder Lucas Rodriguez. It marked the fifth time in the last six games that the Rowdies have allowed the first goal of the match.
Minnesota added to its lead late in the first half as midfielder Kentaro Takada found the back of the net after grabbing a rebound off the post in the 45th minute. The two goals allowed by the Rowdies was the most given up by Tampa Bay in a first half all season. Entering the match, the Rowdies had conceded just three first half goals total in their first 15 matches.
"If you give up two goals, that can be difficult to recover from for any team," said Hill. "I thought we controlled a lot of the match, but the deficit turned out to be insurmountable tonight."
The Rowdies put pressure on the Stars early in the second half with forward Tsuyoshi Yoshitake forcing a few saves by VanOekel. In the 63rd minute, Yoshitake sent a great cross into the box onto the head of forward Mike Ambersley, but VanOekel made a diving save to keep the ball out of the net.
Tampa Bay finally beat VanOekel in the 80th minute. Ambersley passed from the left side to Clare inside the box and Clare chipped the ball into the back of the net to cut the lead to 2-1. It was the second goal of the season for Clare, with Ambersley earning his fourth assist in 2012 to tie Keith Savage for the team lead.
"I consider Matt's goal to be a team goal because it started in our half," said Hill. "It was a great play by Mike to get the ball to Matt, and it was a very nice finish."
Minnesota: Martin Nunez - 30th minute (assisted by Lucas Rodriguez)
Minnesota: Kentaro Takada - 45th minute
Rowdies: Matt Clare - 80th minute (assisted by Mike Ambersley)
Minnesota Stars FC: GK Matt VanOekel, D Justin Davis, D Cristiano Dias, D Brian Kallman (Captain), D Mba Ernest Tchoupe, M Neil Hlavaty, M Kentaro Takada, M Kevin Venegas (Kevin Friedland 65'), M Lucas Rodriguez (Moura 83'), F Martin Nunez, F Amani Walker (Simone Bracalello 74')
Rowdies: GK Jeff Attinella, D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D Andres Arango, D Daniel Scott, D Takuya Yamada, M Stuart Campbell, M Luke Mulholland, M Keith Savage (Shane Hill 70'), F Mike Ambersley, F Fafa Picault (Matt Clare 45'), F Tsuyoshi Yoshitake (Daniel Antoniuk 70')