Rowdies and Eddies Play to a 1-1 Draw
The Tampa Bay Rowdies and FC Edmonton battled it out to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. An early goal by forward Georgi Hristov from the penalty spot put the Rowdies up front, but Edmonton would deny Tampa Bay their first home win of this season with the equalizer in the 35th minute.
"It is our goal to get the three points every time we come out," explained defender Jordan Gafa. "I came on last match for Jay who was injured, and every day I have been trying hard to prove that I deserve a spot in the starting XI. Although we wanted the win, we do take away the fact that we were able to withstand Edmonton's pressure in the second half."
Forward Georgi Hristov opened the scoring in the 16th minute after he converted from the penalty spot. This is the Bulgarian's second goal of the season, both coming from penalty kicks. April's NASL Player of the Month Luke Mulholland was once again involved in creating the goal as he was initially brought down in the box by the Eddies goalkeeper Lance Parker.
Even though the Rowdies looked for the insurance goal as the half developed, the Eddies leveled the score in the 35th minute after midfielder Shaun Saiko shot it through the legs of Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo. Last week's Player of the Week received a pass from midfielder Daryl Fordyce before netting the equalizer.
With the score 1-1 going into the second half, the home side and FC Edmonton shared chances for the go-ahead goal. Mulholland once again demonstrated his free kick abilities with a great shot from just outside the 18-yard box. His shot looked to curl into the upper right corner, but Parker dove to his left and sent it out for a corner.
Minutes later, the Eddies had a chance of their own off a low shot by midfielder Neil Hlavaty. The midfielder’s shot looked to go towards the back of the net but Restrepo sent the ball out for a corner kick, getting a touch on the ball.
Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill opted to enter forward Carl Cort in the 62nd minute in search of the winning goal, sliding Mulholland to the right side of the midfield. Cort, who returned after sitting out the first four games of the season due to an injury, had his first chance in the 70th minute. Mulholland fed a low cross to the forward who controlled the ball around the 6-yard box and took a shot. His strike found one of Edmonton’s defenders on the way and it went out for a corner.
"I was itching to get back on the pitch," Cort commented. "With the way last season ended, I could not wait to get my first minutes in this season. I felt great tonight but we always want a win, especially at home in front of our fans."
The second half continued with neither team able to get the winning goal. Restrepo faced several crosses that forced the Rowdies defense to be on top of their game to clear the ball out in multiple occasions. The Rowdies were unable to reach the final third as the 90th minute approached, but found one last chance in aggregate time as Mulholland took a strike from inside the box but it sailed over the crossbar.
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov - 16th minute (Penalty Kick)
Edmonton: Shaun Saiko - 35th minute (assisted by Daryl Fordyce)
Rowdies: Restrepo; Gafa, Sanfilippo (Captain), Scott, Arango; Frimpong (Cort 62'), Savage, Hill, Cox (Del Do 77'); Mulholland, Hristov
FC Edmonton: Parker; Edward, Mitchell, LeRoy, Rago; Nurse, Hlavaty, Saiko, Garrett, Fordyce; Cox (Jalali 80')