Tampa Bay Sports Day

NASL: Rowdies Comeback Falls Short In 3-2 Loss To Indy Eleven

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Joe Cole nearly sparked an incredible comeback with an unbelievable second half rally, but the Tampa Bay Rowdies fell to a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat in a dramatic night at Al Lang Stadium.

After a heroic second-half performance from Cole, the Rowdies nearly pulled off a result for the ages, with everything that was on the line.

Tampa Bay pushed and pushed for a go-ahead goal and nearly scored it on a couple of occasions, but with everyone committed forward, Indy’s Nicki Paterson scored a dagger from the top of the box in the 85th minute to doom the Rowdies to defeat.

“It’s absolutely devastating (to have lost this match,)” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We had them penned in for longer than 30 minutes in that second half and I really thought we were going to go and get the third goal.”

The Rowdies trailed 2-0 at halftime after a shaky start to the match.

Indy’s Duke Lacroix scored to cap a tremendous solo run in the 16th minute and Jair Reinoso finished a cutback from Lacroix in the 31st to double Indy’s lead barely half an hour into the match.

It was the second-consecutive match the Rowdies fell behind 2-0 only to come back and equalize the match in the second half.

Down 2-0, Tampa Bay nearly found a quick response when Martin Vingaard fired a shot from the right side of the box and beat Indy goalkeeper Keith Cardona, but Vingaard’s shot rocked the crossbar and caromed away from danger.

Cole appeared to have scored less than a minute later in the 33rd minute when he spun quickly and beat Cardona from a sharp angle, but was flagged for offside.

Cole had a second potential goal waived off for offside in the 44th minute in a frustrating end to the half. Juan Guerra sent a ball toward goal from the edge of the box and Cole redirected it past Cardona and into the net for another goal, but again the offside flag was raised.

With their backs against the wall, the Rowdies opened the second half on the front foot and dominated the second 45 minutes.

It took until the 53rd minute for Tampa Bay to find its way back into the match, with Georgi Hristov forcing Cardona to make a save with a low, hard shot. Cardona made the save, but Cole was positioned to pounce on the rebound and cut the Rowdies’ deficit to 3-2.

Cole was at it again in the 68th minute, perfectly placing a shot into the upper 90 of the goal frame and giving Cardona absolutely no chance to make the save.

Tampa Bay fought desperately for a go-ahead goal late in the match, but Paterson’s goal in the 85th minute ended all hope of a positive result for the Rowdies.

“With what was at stake, we didn’t show enough aggression or enough tempo in our play until we were 2-nil down, which is mind-blowing, really,” Campbell said. “That start we had to the first half cost us the game tonight. … We knew what was at stake and we went out there as if we were the team that was set in the playoffs. It’s very, very frustrating.”

Tampa Bay has a difficult task ahead to qualify for The Championship, the NASL’s four-team playoffs, but the door remains ajar. The Rowdies trail Minnesota United and Rayo OKC by four points in the NASL Combined Standings with two games remaining and six points on offer.

The Rowdies take on the Ottawa Fury FC this Saturday in the 2016 home finale, with a postgame concert by Rachel Platten capping the season.