ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (October 20, 2016) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-2 loss to the Indy Eleven on Wednesday night felt like a punch to the gut. After trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Rowdies, led by Joe Cole, came back to tie the match with 20-plus minutes still to play. While pushing as hard as possible for an equalizer, the Rowdies were beaten by a dagger of a goal from Indy’s Nicki Paterson in the 85th minute.
Thankfully, not all hope is lost. The Rowdies need help in their quest to qualify for the postseason, but it is still possible.
1. A legendary performance from Joe Cole
Joe Cole scored both of Tampa Bay’s goals Wednesday night, his eighth and ninth of the season. When the Rowdies had their backs against the wall, Cole stood up to the task, scoring in the 53rd and 68th minutes to pull the Rowdies back into the game.
His first finish was a poachers’ goal, pouncing on a rebound after Indy Eleven goalkeeper Keith Cardona had saved a Georgi Hristov shot.
His second finish was simply sublime, a perfectly-placed laser into the upper corner of the net, leaving Indy goalkeeper Keith Cardona no chance of making the save.
Cole also scored a pair of goals in the first half, but both were called off due to offside. The second was clearly offside, the first was a much tighter decision.
2. Killed by a bad start
The Rowdies have made a habit lately of starting slow and that must be improved in the two matches remaining this season. In Miami last Friday night and again against Indy last night, the Rowdies conceded two goals within 16 minutes of each other to fall behind 2-0. Miami’s first goal came in the 16th minute and Indy’s came in the 15th.
There’s a lot to like about how the Rowdies have responded to their 2-0 deficits, coming back to equalize the match both times, but, ideally, the Rowdies will have a stronger start Saturday night against the Ottawa Fury FC.
“The first 30 minutes of the game weren’t good enough,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “With what was at stake, we didn’t show enough aggression or enough tempo in our play until we went 2-nil down and then it seemed to wake us up. … The start to the first half is what’s cost us the game.”
3. When men and mountains meet
Lining the walls of the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ locker room are a number of quotes in large block letters on the walls. One of those quotes, from English poet William Blake, seems particularly apropos to the situation the Rowdies currently face.
“Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” – William Blake
The Rowdies are facing a mountain in their attempt to qualify for The Championship, the NASL’s four-team playoffs, but not all hope is lost. Tampa Bay trails both Minnesota United FC and Rayo OKC by three points in the NASL Combined Standings with two matches left, but with six points still on offer, the Rowdies can surge past those teams and sneak into the playoffs.
The next two matches will be a test of how great the Rowdies can be. The past two games have shown how well the Rowdies can turn it on when they're backed into a corner and now they're playing for their season.