ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (October 5, 2016) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies’ road to the playoffs nearly hit a speed bump on Wednesday night against Minnesota United FC, but Keith Savage jumped into the drivers’ seat in stoppage time and kept Tampa Bay on course with a game-tying goal in stoppage time to salvage a 2-2 draw.
The Rowdies entered the match in a three-way tie for fourth place and a potential playoff spot, but risked falling three points behind Minnesota United until Savage’s dramatic equalizer.
“I was in the right spot at the right time,” Savage said of his late, late equalizer. “It could have fallen to anyone. We were pushing for that goal and I’m really glad we got it. It means we’re still in it, right there in the hunt for the playoffs. … It’s going to be a battle to the last game.”
Minnesota took a lead twice in the match with goals in the 17th and 51st minutes via Christian Ramirez and J.C. Banks, respectively, but the Rowdies never gave up. Hristov equalized in the 31st minute before Savage earned Tampa Bay a point in stoppage time.
“We couldn’t quite get going in the second half,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “Once again, the boys showed terrific spirit, heart and commitment. The fans dragged us over the line and kept us going right into the 95th minute and fortunately, we were able to get away with a point.”
The Rowdies came into the match knowing how important it was. With less than a month remaining in the regular season, the Rowdies find themselves in a dead heat playoff race.
For much of the second half, it appeared Tampa Bay would fall behind in the race with a home loss as chance after chance was denied.
But Savage changed the course of the race.
“If we don’t win, (we make sure) we don’t lose,” Savage said. “We know that every point counts and that’s been our motto. We want three points at home, but we’re very thankful for that point.”
The Rowdies will be disappointed with the quality of both goals conceded on the night, the result of sloppy defending and failing to clear the ball, but Hristov and Savage’s goals mean the Rowdies extended their unbeaten streak to seven games.
Hristov’s goal, assisted by Tommy Heinemann, was his ninth of the season, a sharp left-footed finish past Loons goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock.
Wednesday’s result sees the Rowdies remain tied with Minnesota on points with both clubs moving one point ahead of sixth-place Miami. The Rowdies retain the advantage of having a game in hand compared to Minnesota.
Now, the Rowdies face another tough test, traveling to Canada for a Sunday afternoon match against FC Edmonton on short rest. Tampa Bay then heads to Miami to face Miami FC on October 14 before hosting the Indy Eleven on October 19 in its next home game.
Minnesota United: Christian Ramirez – 17th minute
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov – 31st minute (Assisted by Tommy Heinemann)
Minnesota: JC Banks – 51st minute
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov – 54th minute
Tampa Bay: Keith Savage – 73rd minute
Minnesota: Chris Klute – 82nd minute
Minnesota: Justin Davis – 88th minute
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1): GK Matt Pickens; D Darnell King, Tamika Mkandawire (c), Neill Collins, PC; M Justin Chavez (Carlos Preciado 70′), Keith Savage; M Eric Avila (Kalif Alhassan 80′), Joe Cole, Georgi Hristov; F Tommy Heinemann
Minnesota XI (4-1-4-1): GK Sammy Ndjock; D Kevin Venegas, Tiago Calvano (c), Brent Kallman, Justin Davis; M Jeb Brovsky; M Danny Cruz (Jamie Watson 65′), Ibson, J.C. Banks (Ben Speas 77′), Stefano Pinho (Chris Klute 80′); F Christian Ramirez