ROWDIES EARN A POINT WITH 1-1 DRAW IN MINNESOTA
BLAINE, Minn. — The Tampa Bay Rowdies earned a point at the National Sports Center Stadium on Saturday night, drawing 1-1 with the NASL Spring Champions, Minnesota United FC.
Christian Ramirez put the Loons ahead early in the first half, but Georgi Hristov’s 70th minute goal pulled the Rowdies even. A hectic finish saw both teams take a shot at earning all three points, but the match ended 1-1.
"We are happy with a point," Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. "Minnesota had a number of opportunities which they didn’t capitalize on. Credit to our guys for sticking into the game and earning their point."
Ramirez’s league-leading 14th NASL goal — which he converted from the penalty spot in the 14th minute — gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead at halftime. The penalty kick was awarded when Daniel Mendes was judged to have been fouled just inside the 18-yard box. Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens correctly dove to his right-hand side, but could not prevent the goal.
Minnesota dominated much of the possession for the first half, but the Loons were unable to capitalize, sending their shots wide of frame.
"In the first half, we were a little tentative for some reason and defended a little bit too deep," Hill said. "Obviously, the goal was self-inflicted."
Tampa Bay started to find its footing later in the half, but did not really test Minnesota goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel.
The Rowdies arguably had the better chances in the second half, holding the ball and passing much better in the second frame than in the first. Still, the Rowdies couldn’t find the cutting edge for the early stages of the second half, not really challenging Van Oekel.
Rowdies coach Ricky Hill started to make his substitutions just after the hour mark, inserting both Amani Walker and Lucky Mkosana in the 62nd minute.
It didn’t take long for those substitutions to positively change the match
Mkosana showed clever footwork with the ball on left wing, beating a few defenders before passing to Hristov, who finished from a sharp angle past Van Oekel and into the net for the game-tying goal.
As the clock moved toward fulltime, the match stretched out as both teams desperately worked for a winner.
In the 79th minute, Walker raced one-on-one toward Van Oekel, but Minnesota defender Cristiano Dias made a sliding tackle to poke the ball away at the last moment.
Four minutes later, Shane Hill tried his luck from well outside the box, drilling a ball first-time that forced Van Oekel to make a diving save.
"The second half performance was more like us, in regards to the tempo that we played and the commitment that we showed," Ricky Hill said.
At the other end, in the 84th minute, Simone Bracalello and Miguel Ibarra has consecutive shots blocked inside the Rowdies’ defensive box.
Both Ibarra and Walker had shots at a game-winning goal for their respective teams in stoppage time, but neither could convert, with the final whistle ending the match and earning each team a hard-fought point.
Minnesota: Christian Ramirez - 14th minute (Penalty Kick)
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov - 70th minute (Assisted by Lucky Mkosana)
Minnesota United FC: VanOekel; Davis, Dias, Calvano, Venegas; Mendes, Pitchkolan (C), Vicentini, Jordan (Watson 77'); Ibarra, Ramirez (Bracalello 81')
Rowdies: Pickens; Hunt, Rodrigues, Mkandawire (C), Wallace; Frimpong (Mkosana 62'), Yamada, Hill, Savage (Walker 62'); Hristov, Shriver (Morris 69')