Tampa Bay Sports Day

Rowdies’ Joe Cole Debuts In Tampa Bay Draw

Minnesota United FC vs Jacksonville Armada FC

Joe Cole wasted no time jumping into the North American Soccer League (NASL) fray with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Only days after landing in the United States and a whirlwind week of news conferences and interviews, Cole stepped on the field at Al Lang Stadium and made an immediate impact. His skill and vision were on display throughout his 90 minutes on the field in the Rowdies’ 1-1 draw with Rayo OKC in Week 7 of the NASL Spring Season.

Early in the second half, an opportunistic Michel scored his fourth goal of the season for Rayo OKC. The lead held for 20 minutes until the Rowdies got even on an own goal to salvage a point in Cole’s debut match. Cole and the Rowdies travel to New York next week to play the Cosmos in a clash between two of the league’s classic clubs.

First-half goals by Kevin Venegas and Stefano Pinho gave Minnesota United a 2-0 victory over visiting Jacksonville Armada FC and a spot atop the standings. For Pinho, it was his first goal in a Loons uniform after his dominant performance with Fort Lauderdale last year.

Indy Eleven and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers endured a long delay because of severe weather. The Strikers had the better of the play on both sides of halftime, but Indy goalkeeper Jon Busch turned in a stellar performance in the scoreless draw to preserve the Eleven’s claim as the league’s only unbeaten team.

Sitting even on 13 points with Minnesota is the Carolina RailHawks, who played to a frustrating scoreless draw against Miami FC at WakeMed Soccer Park.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 0, Indy Eleven 0
The game with the earliest start, 7 p.m. Eastern, of the night’s four encounters ended the latest after a 1-hour-25-minute weather delay at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Strikers (1-3-2, 6) had the better of play in the first 30 minutes, forcing Indy Eleven (2-4-0, 10) goalkeeper Jon Busch into a series of saves. First, Busch saved a deflection off the line with a desperate lunge, then he punched clear a point-blank shot from Maicon Santos.

When the match finally resumed, the Strikers put on the pressure. Jose Angulo smashed a left-footed shot from distance off the crossbar in the 48th minute and a few minutes later a glancing header from Maicon Santos had to be pushed wide by Busch. Fort Lauderdale had a pair of final chances thwarted by Busch, coming off shots from Ramon Nunez and Nana Attakora.

Carolina RailHawks 0, Miami FC 0
Miami FC withstood an early Carolina onslaught before 7,107 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., on Saturday night in the “NASL Game of the Week” on ONE World Sports and came away with a precious point on the road in a scoress draw. With the result, the expansion club ended its four-game losing streak.

Goalkeeper Daniel Vega kept Miami FC (0-3-4, 3) in the game during the opening 10 minutes as the Railhawks (4-1-2, 13) peppered him with a handful of shots that forced three early saves. Carolina dominated the first half, but failed to break through for the opening goal.

Miami FC opened the second half more confident and more dangerous. Richie Ryan, acquired by the expansion club from Jacksonville, came the closest for the visitors when he smacked a shot from just outside the penalty area that sailed inches over the crossbar.Carolina ended a two-game losing streak after it had started the season with four consecutive wins.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1, Rayo OKC 1
English veteran Joe Cole, signed last week by the Rowdies (2-3-1, 9), was active from the opening whistle before 6,702 at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday night. He had his best chance 19 minutes into the match when he maneuvered skillfully for an open shot that was deflected by the Rayo OKC (2-2-2, 8) defense.

But it was the visitors who took the lead in the 54th minute after a misplay in the Tampa Bay penalty area as goalkeeper Matt Pickens and defender Neill Collins collided as Pickens advanced to meet a cross. The ball popped loose and Rayo OKC’s Michel was there to pounce, scoring easily into the open net. It was Michel’s fourth goal of the season, tying Minnesota’s Christian Ramirez for the Spring Season lead.

Seconds before Rayo OKC scored the game’s first goal, goalkeeper Daniel Fernandes swatted a ball clear that was extremely close to crossing the goal line. Tampa Bay players appealed to the referee, but to no avail.The Rowdies drew even when Tom Heinemann’s shot was turned into the net by Rayo OKC defender Juanan for an own goal in the 74th minute. Heinemann had run onto a through ball from Michael Nanchoff.

Minnesota United 2, Jacksonville Armada FC 0
Minnesota United used a pair of first-half goals to defeat the visiting Jacksonville Armada FC, 2-0, before 8,861 at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn., on Saturday night. The victory sees the Loons take over first place, provisionally, in the Spring Season standings. Minnesota and Carolina are tied on 13 points, but the Loons have a superior goal differential, the first tiebreaker. Week 7 action concludes Sunday when FC Edmonton hosts the New York Cosmos, who could regain the top spot with a victory.

A turnover in the Jacksonville end led to a Minnesota (4-1-1, 13) goal in the 16th minute. Kevin Venegas picked up the ball and played a 1-2 with Christian Ramirez before curling a sensational left-footed shot into the far upper corner of the goal past Jacksonville (1-1-4, 4) goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo. It was the first goal of the year for Venegas.

Stefano Pinho, last year’s Golden Boot and Golden Ball winner with Fort Lauderdale, doubled the Loons’ lead and scored his first goal for his new club a few minutes before the half-hour mark.Jacksonville extended its road winless streak to 17 games, spanning its first and now second season in the NASL.