ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (May 14, 2016) — On another night, the Tampa Bay Rowdies would’ve beaten Rayo OKC and picked up another three points in the NASL Spring Season Standings, but it wasn’t to be on this night as the Rowdies were held to an unlucky 1-1 draw at Al Lang Stadium.
A defensive blunder had gifted Rayo OKC a lead in the 54th minute, but the Rowdies showed heart to fight back for a draw and deserved more from a late rally. Tommy Heinemann forced a Juanan own goal in the 74th minute, with an on-target shot beating Daniel Fernandes before being touched by Juanan and going over the line.
“After we scored, we then went on and created more chances, which is why I’m as downbeat as I am,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “When we scored, I expected us to keep going, which we did. I expected us to go and create chances and I expected us to go and get the three points.”
Tampa Bay started the match on the front foot, bouyed by the energy of a large home crowd of 6,702, attacking Rayo OKC at every opportunity. The offensive push lasted for the entire match, with the Rowdies forcing eight shots on target, compared to just two for Rayo OKC.
Still, things didn’t quite click in the first half, which ended 0-0. The Rowdies are yet to score a first half goal this season.
The second half held all the drama.
Rayo OKC’s goal in the 54th minute was as unlucky as it gets for the Rowdies. When the cross came in from the right side, goalkeeper Matt Pickens and defender Tamika Mkandawire rose to clear it and collided. Pickens held onto the ball, but was unable to secure it when he hit the ground. The ball popped about a foot away from him and, as he scrambled to grab it, Neill Collins moved to kick it clear. The kick left the ball right at the feet of Rayo OKC’s Michel, who kicked it home for a simple finish.
Down a goal, Tampa Bay roared back to life via the home crowd.
The Rowdies created chance after chance, but it wasn’t until Tommy Heinemann entered the match in the 65th minute that the tide started to turn.
Heinemann was on the receiving end of a delicate through ball from Michael Nanchoff in the 74th minute, firing it toward goal with his left foot. The shot beat an onrushing Daniel Fernandes and appeared destined to go over the line. A slight touch from Juanan wasn’t enough to change its path, with the ball reaching the net for Tampa Bay’s equalizing goal.
“It was a great ball from Nanchoff, slotted in behind,” Heinemann said. “I was able to get into the gap and dink it over the keeper. It got a little help from (Juanan.) I’m happy it went in, happy that we got the drew, but I get that feeling that we left points on the table tonight.”
After the goal, Tampa Bay’s best chances of scoring a winner came in quick succession.
First, Collins connected with a Joe Cole free kick and fired a strong header on goal in the 84th minute, but Fernandes was sure-handed at the near post to collect.
In the 87th minute, Cole took a quick free kick, which was redirected into the net by Heinemann, but the goal was waived off by the referee because he had not restarted play yet.
At the start of stoppage time, Heinemann spun and fired a shot from a tight angle, but again, Fernandes was there to make one of his eight saves on the night.
Georgi Hristov had the last chance at scoring a winner deep into stoppage time, but his effort sailed just over the crossbar.
Up next, the Rowdies hit the road for a difficult two-game road trip, visiting the New York Cosmos on May 22 and Minnesota United FC on May 28.
Rayo OKC: Michel – 54th minute
Rowdies: Juanan (Own Goal) – 74th minute
Rayo OKC: Derek Boateng – 71st minute
Rayo OKC: Michel – 86th minute
Rowdies (4-2-3-1): GK Matt Pickens; D Darnell King, Tamika Mkandawire (c), Neill Collins, Zac Portillos; M Juan Guerra, Joe Cole; M Eric Avila, Michael Nanchoff, Kalif Alhassan (Georgi Hristov 71′); F Danny Mwanga (Tommy Heinemann 65′)
Rayo OKC (4-3-3): GK Daniel Fernandes; D Kosuke Kimura, Futty Danso, Juanan, Moises Hernandez; M Pecka (Gibson 90+), Derek Boateng (Yuma 80′), Michel (c); F Billy Forbes, Robbie Findley (Sebastian Velazquez 46′), Richard Menjivar