The Tampa Bay Rowdies remained as the only unbeaten team in the 2013 NASL Fall Season after playing to a 1-1 draw against the host and NASL Spring Season Champion, Atlanta Silverbacks in front of 3,202 spectators at the Atlanta Silverbacks Park on Saturday evening.
Forward Pedro Mendes gave Atlanta the lead early in the first half; however Tampa Bay forward Georgi Hristov scored the equalizer off a penalty kick in the second stanza.
“Overall it was a great result as we had our chances score,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “We are aiming to be here (Atlanta Silverbacks Park) and we are working hard to be here. We just need to be get more than just ties this season and of course a bit of luck to get here.”
The host of the NASL Soccer Bowl 2013, Silverbacks, opened the scoring in the fourth minute when the Brazilian Mendes took a pass from the El Salvadorian midfielder Richard Menjivar and buried a shot past Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo from 20 yards out to give his team an early 1-0 advantage.
In the ninth minute, the game was stopped for a lightning delay that would end up lasting just over 20 minutes.
After play resumed, the Rowdies settled down and created a few opportunities through midfielders Keith Savage and Shane Hill.
The Silverbacks continues their attack and in the 24th minute, they could have doubled their lead when forward Pablo Cruz dribbled through the Rowdies’ defense, beating a trio of defenders before seeing his shot stopped by Venezuelan Restrepo from point-blank range.
In the 35th minute English midfielder Luke Mulholland received a pass from Ghana Native forward Evan Frimpong and fired a shot on goal for Tampa Bay, however Atlanta goalkeeper Joe Nasco made a diving save to his right.
The score remained 1-0 in favor of the Silverbacks going into halftime.
Four minutes into the second half, Silverbacks’ defender Martyn Lancaster was whistled for a handball inside the 18-yard box and a penalty was called in favor of the Rowdies.
The Bulgarian Hristov took the shot and scored his eighth goal of the season to level the match for Tampa Bay.
Afterwards, Atlanta pushed for the go-ahead goal but would be denied by Restrepo in several opportunities. Both Mendes and Menjivar had chances to put the Silverbacks ahead in the 58th and 63rd minutes respectively, only to find Restrepo at the end of both their shots.
With Atlanta applying the pressure, Rowdies second-half substitute Etienne Barbara nearly put the Rowdies up with a fantastic run down the left flank. After dancing around two Atlanta defenders, he was unable to put his shot on target, sending the ball just wide of the right post.
Restrepo would make several saves to keep the Rowdies leveled at one, and in several chances substitute Brad Stisser would see Restrepo deny him the go-ahead goal.
It was Frimpong who almost scored the game-winning goal for the Rowdies, getting past a defender with a perfect step over move and firing a shot on goal. Atlanta’s goalkeeper found himself positioned perfectly to make a one-handed stop on Frimpong's shot.
As the match was winding down, Atlanta was inches away from making it 2-1 in the 85th minute. After an Atlanta forward headed the ball past Restrepo, it was the Rowdies goalkeeper himself that would reach back and punch the ball out of harm before Stisser could push the ball into the net.
“We had a poor display of finishing that I have seen in a long time,” commented Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes. “There were some simple goals that we should have scored. It has become a habit of us giving up goals and giving up leads.”
|New York Cosmos||31||14||9||4||1||10|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||20||14||5||5||4||3|
|Minnesota United FC||20||14||6||2||6||2|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||18||14||5||3||6||-2|
|San Antonio Scorpions||10||14||3||1||10||-9|
|San Antonio Scorpions||20||12||6||2||4||4|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||18||12||5||3||4||5|
|Minnesota United FC||14||12||4||2||6||-5|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||8||12||2||2||8||-14|