ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (July 23, 2016) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Cosmos shared the points Saturday night with a wild 2-2 draw at Al Lang Stadium.
After a scoreless first half, the Cosmos took a 2-0 lead to the 84th minute, but a pair of late goals helped the Rowdies walk away with a point. Keith Savage forced an own goal in the 84th minute and Joe Cole equalized the match from the spot six minutes into stoppage time.
“I was really excited coming into the game,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “When the Rowdies and Cosmos clash, it’s a big, big event. There’s usually fireworks and there were definitely fireworks tonight, on and off the pitch.”
New York’s Juan Arango put the Cosmos ahead with a spectacular free kick in the 53rd minute and Yasmani Duk doubled the lead in the 67th, but the night was far from over.
A series of controversial calls brought the crowd of 6,301 to a boiling point on a steamy summer night in St. Petersburg with the Rowdies feeling like they were getting the worse end of decisions.
The most notable of the calls came with the Rowdies down a goal in the 57th minute when Cole cut his way into the Cosmos’ box. Cole was contacted from behind and fell forward onto the ball, which hit his arm before eventually trickling across the line to the pull the Rowdies level. The goal was waived off due to handball, ratcheting the intensity of the match up another few clicks.
“It was a competitive game with two good teams playing with tenacity,” Cole said. “It was a great game for the fans to watch and we showed a lot of mettle, but I just feel like we’ve been on the wrong side of so many decisions. … We don’t seem to be getting any decisions, any breaks, and I don’t know why.”
When the Rowdies started to hang their heads in frustration, the fire of the crowd lifted them back. Veteran leadership on the field started to show as Tampa Bay made its own luck down the stretch.
“The fans kept the players going,” Campbell said. “They could’ve easily felt sorry for themselves 2-0 down against a good Cosmos team, but the atmosphere in the stadium tonight was probably the best I’ve ever known it. The fans were unbelievable. You guys lifted the whole stadium. Everybody’s got to take credit for that.”
The resilience started to pay off in the 84th minute when a marauding run from Tamika Mkandawire into New York’s box ended up with Keith Savage receiving the critical pass and forcing an own goal to cut the deficit in half.
The match carried on deep into stoppage time until Tommy Heinemann was fouled in the box and the Rowdies earned a late penalty kick. Cole buried the penalty to snatch a tie from the jaws of defeat in another epic chapter of the Rowdies vs. Cosmos rivalry.
Tampa Bay is on the road for two matches next week, visiting Rayo OKC on Wednesday and the Ottawa Fury FC on Saturday. The Rowdies will be without Campbell and Assistant Coach Raoul Voss in Oklahoma after both were dismissed from Saturday’s match.
The Rowdies will be home again Saturday, August 6 to host the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Tickets are available by calling (727) 222-2000 or clicking here.
Rowdies: Martin Vingaard – 30th minute
Rowdies: Michael Nanchoff – 45th minute
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov – 54th minute
Rowdies: Darnell King – 59th minute
Cosmos: Yasmani Duk – 62nd minute
Cosmos: David Diosa – 83rd minute
Cosmos: Juan Arango – 90+ minute
Cosmos: Jimmy Ockford – 90+ minute
Cosmos: Juan Arango – 53rd minute
Cosmos: Yasmani Duk (assisted by Lucky Mkosana) – 67th minute
Rowdies: Own Goal – 84th minute
Rowdies: Joe Cole – 90+’th minute (penalty)
Rowdies (4-3-3): GK Matt Pickens; D Darnell King, D Justin Chavez, D Tamika Mkandawire, D Walter Ramirez; M Martin Vingaard, M Joe Cole, M Keith Savage; F Eric Avila, F Georgi Hristov (Tommy Heinemann 81′), F Michael Nanchoff (Carlos Preciado 66′)
Cosmos (4-4-2): GK Brian Holt; D Hunter Freeman, D David Ochieng, D Carlos Mendes, D Ayoze; M Juan Arango, M Danny Szetela, M Adam Moffat, M David Diosa (Jairo Arrieta 82′); F Yasmani Duk (Ruben Bover 72′), F Lucky Mkosana