ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 10, 2017) — Joe Cole scored his fourth goal of the season Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Rowdies to pull off a home win as the Rowdies settled for a 1-1 draw against the Rochester Rhinos at Al Lang Stadium.
Tampa Bay couldn’t have started the match much worse, with a defensive miscommunication costing the Rowdies a goal just five minutes into the match.
The Rowdies (6-5-3 (W-T-L), 23 points) rebounded quickly, with Cole putting in a Marcel Schäfer cross in the 19th minute, but neither side was able to manage a second goal.
“We started the game extremely well and then we made a bad mistake, which led to their first goal,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “That happens, but then the guys responded. In the first half, I thought we were excellent and when we play as well as that, we have to go on and win the game. We have to put the game to bed.”
Rochester (4-5-1, 17 points) took the early lead on a major error by the Rowdies.
Rhinos midfielder Wal Fall launched a simple lob into the Rowdies’ half that fell comfortably between Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens and center back Neill Collins 30 yards from goal, but Collins didn’t shield Rhinos forward Jochen Graf off the ball properly.
Graf wheeled around Collins and put a shot on target. Pickens got his hands to it, but couldn’t prevent it from going into the net and confirmed the Rowdies’ disastrous start.
After the shaky concession, Tampa Bay clicked into gear and didn’t have to wait long for an equalizer.
In the 19th minute, Leo Fernandes fed the ball to left back Marcel Schäfer on an overlapping run. Schäfer crossed it with his first touch and found Cole sliding past his marker at the near post for an easy finish to even at the match at 1-1.
From there, the game followed a familiar script, with the Rowdies dominating possession and momentum, but not finding a way to break down a bunkered-in team.
Tampa Bay had the ball for 69 percent of the match and out-shot the Rhinos 15-11, but couldn’t find a second goal.
“We didn’t take our chances right at the end,” Cole said. “We’ve got to work on that. It’s not something new we’re facing. We need to be better at breaking teams down. … Our goal came from a good passing move and Marcel put in a great ball, so we’ve got to do more of that.”
The Rowdies should have pulled ahead in the 61st minute when they put on a tight passing clinic to break through the Rhinos, but Cole's shot rolled heartbreakingly wide on the wrong side of the goal post.
Despite defending deep in its own half, Rochester looked sharp on the counter attack, and, if not for the repeated interventions of Pickens, could have left St. Petersburg with a surprising win.
Pickens made five saves on the night, none bigger than his denial of Graf in the 71st minute.
After a Rowdies turnover at the halfway line, one quick pass led Graf on a 30-yard one-on-one run against Pickens, but the German’s right-footed shot from the top of the box was bettered by a diving save to Pickens’ left-hand side. Brandon Beresford tried to put the rebound in, but Michael Nanchoff made a heroic block before the ball could reach Pickens.
Pickens made another big save in the 83rd minute, keeping a Rhinos free kick from sneaking into the corner of net after it may have taken a deflection from the head of Kyle Porter.
The Rowdies cranked up the intensity in the closing minutes but couldn’t manage a winner.
Tampa Bay now heads on the road for three-straight road matches, visiting Richmond, Pittsburgh and Charleston in the next three weeks before returning home to host FC Cincinnati on July 6. For tickets, call (727) 222-2000 or click here.
Rochester: Jochen Graf - 6th minute
Rowdies: Joe Cole - 19th minute (Assisted by Marcel Schäfer)
Rowdies: Neill Collins - 28th minute
Rowdies: Keith Savage - 58th minute
Rochester: Wal Fall - 68th minute
Rochester: Bradley Kamdem - 78th minute
Rowdies: Michael Nanchoff - 89th minute
Rowdies (4-2-3-1): GK Matt Pickens; D Kyle Porter, Damion Lowe, Neill Collins, Marcel Schäfer; M Keith Savage (Deshorn Brown 75'), Michael Nanchoff; M Darwin Jones (Alex Morrell 73'), Joe Cole, Leo Fernandes; F Martin Paterson
Rhinos (5-2-2-1): GK Tomas Gomez; D Bradley Kamdem, Ryan Felix, Joe Farrell, Sergio Campbell, Ryan James; M Brandon Beresford, Wal Fall; M Stefan Defregger (Jordan Dover 65'), Jalen Brown (Sofiane Tergou 75'); F Jochen Graf (Sammy Edoung-Biyo 85')