The Tampa Bay Rowdies scored late to secure a 1-1 result against New York Red Bulls II on Saturday afternoon at MSU Soccer Park. Tampa Bay was denied a chance to find a winner from the spot after a penalty decision in the 90th minute was overturned by the officiating crew.
“Disappointed not to take the opportunities that our play deserved,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “I thought the first half performance was excellent, just missing the final touch. In the second half you could say there wasn’t quite as good a performance and we were still missing the final touches, but now and again you need a break and there were two stonewall penalties that we should’ve had that we didn’t get.”
Making his first appearance against his former side since joining the Rowdies on loan, Jake LaCava was a dangerous threat throughout the first half. In the 3rd minute, the Rowdies attacker forced keeper AJ Marcucci into his first of six saves in the match with a blast from outside the back that Marcucci managed to parry away.
Juan Tejada buried the ball into the net in the 22nd minute only for the play to be called back after Rowdies center back Conner Antley was whistled for offside. Dayonn Harris tested Marcucci with a rocketed effort in the 31st minute but the keeper was up to the task of knocking the shot away from danger.
After creating little in the first half, the hosts jumped ahead off a free kick seconds before the halftime break. Rowdies midfielder Yann Ekra conceded a foul a few yards outside the box and then watched as the free kick delivery from Jeremy Rafanello glanced off his shoulder and into the top right corner of the net.
In the 75th minute, LaCava dribbled through a few defenders before letting a shot go from the center of the box. LaCava’s shot deflected off the leg and then the arm of defender Juan Castillo.
The Rowdies could not be denied ten minutes later, though. After shifting up from the back line to right wingback, Antley took advantage of a brilliant ball played into the final third by Lewis Hilton. Antley fired on target and was thwarted by Marcucci, but substitute Leo Fernandes was waiting to pounce on the rebound and level the match.
“Conner Antley did fantastic in that position,” said Collins. “Leo came on and just gave us that creativity. He went 90 minutes on Wednesday so it was difficult for him to go again. That’s what we expect from our subs. They’re their to come on and make a positive impact. They did that and we probably should have used that impetus to win the game.”
As the match neared added time, substitute Junior Etou intercepted a pass in New York’s half and controlled the ball to drive in behind the back line. As Etou was lining up his shot in the box, his effort was snuffed out by a sliding challenge from behind by Lamine Conte. Center referee Matthew Thompson immediately pointed to the penalty spot. Following protestations from New York and a consultation with his assistant referee on the sidelines, Thompson waived the penalty off and awarded the ball to New York.
“I don’t think we’re getting any breaks in terms of some of the calls,” said Collins. “There’s a lot of frustration but the boys are out there fighting extremely hard. We definitely need to improve a couple things and we’re definitely up against it right now but that’s going to bring the best out of us.”
The Rowdies remain on the road to face Memphis 901 FC on Wednesday before returning to Al Lang Stadium to host San Diego Loyal SC next Saturday, April 30. Tickets for the match can be purchased here or by calling the Rowdies ticket office at 727-222-2000.
NY – Jeremy Rafanello 45’
TBR – Leo Fernandes 85’
TBR: Arozarena; Wyke, Antley, Guillen; Harris (Scarlett, 71’), Hilton, Ekra (Fernandes, 71’), Areman (Guenzatti, 87’); LaCava, Greig (Mkosana, 71’), Tejada (Etou, 45’)
NY – Marcucci; Craigwell, Conte, Castillo; Mullings, Sserwadda (Knapp, 90’+2), Edelman (Willimas, 45’), Pendant; Filipe (Murphy, 66’), Rafanello, Castellano (Adebayo-Smith, 66’)