ST PETERSBURG, FL (September 19, 2012) - The Tampa Bay Rowdies played to a 1-1 draw against Carolina on Wednesday night at Al Lang Stadium in Downtown St. Petersburg. With the tie, the Rowdies secured a spot in the NASL Semifinals.
The Rowdies went up 1-0 in the 13th minute, when Andres Arango headed a perfect ball into the top right corner of the net. Midfielder Luke Mulholland picked up his fifth assist of the season, as his corner kick found an open Arango, who scored his first goal of the season. Mulholland now has a goal and two assists in his last two games.
"I found myself free in the box," said Arango. "Luke delivered a great pass off the corner kick and the ball deflected off a Carolina player, which helped me actually position myself better and power it through."
The RailHawks equalized in the 61st minute after midfielder Ty Shipalane scored his fifth goal of the season. His shot took a deflection off of defender Frankie Sanfilippo and went past Rowdies goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. Brian Shriver picked up his third assist of the season.
"Personally, this was one of my best games this season," said Attinella. "With that being said, I would have liked to have picked up the three points but I know I need to keep playing at this level to help the team win. Their goal was frustrating because of how it went in, but credit to our defense for regrouping and tightening back up after they scored."
Carolina had the first chance on goal, when Shriver entered the box and powered a shot from 10 yards out, but Attinella was well positioned and was able to contain the shot.
In the 10th minute, the Rowdies had their first chance of the match, as midfielder Evans Frimpong sent a cross from the right side of the box and forward Mike Ambersley was able to volley it on goal. His shot was saved by Carolina goalkeeper Ray Burse, denying Tampa Bay their second goal of the match.
Tampa bay scored the first goal of the match in the 13th minute, when Arango powered a header into the top right corner of the net, after Mulholland delivered a great corner kick giving the Rowdies the lead.
Arango picked up his fifth yellow card in the 22nd minute and will have to sit out the final match of the regular season against the RailHawks next Saturday.
Entering the 42nd minute, RailHawks midfielder Ty Shipalane was one-on-one with Attinella, but the Rowdies goalkeeper made a diving save to his right to keep the Rowdies in the lead at halftime.
Carolina came out in the second half desperately looking for the tying goal, but Attinella had an excellent half, denying the RailHawks in more than one opportunity.
In the 55th minute, Attinella came up huge in two occasions. Carolina had back to back chances inside the six-yard box, but the Rowdies goalkeeper was able to make a save on the first chance and contain the ensuing shot.
The Rowdies looked to extend the lead in the 58th minute, when forward Carl Cort had a strike from 19 yards out, but Burse was able to contain the shot.
Carolina threatened to tie the game with back-to-back chances in the 59th minute. Midfielder Nick Zimmerman entered the box from the right and powered a shot on goal, but Attinella made a great kick save, sending the ball out for a corner kick. On the ensuing corner kick, defender Kupono low-headed the ball, but Attinella was able to get a hand on it and push it over the goal for another corner kicks.
The RailHawks scored the tying goal in the 61st minute when Shipalane received a pass from Shriver on the left side of the box and took a shot. His strike hit Sanfilippo and trickled in past Attinella
Tampa Bay is now unbeaten in their last five games and have lost only two of the last 16 games, including nine wins. The Rowdies still can finish in first place, if Tampa Bay wins at Carolina on Saturday and San Antonio loses on Sunday against Minnesota.
"This bye for us is huge going into the playoffs,' said Attinella. "When you play a one-game elimination quarterfinal, anything can happen and last year is an example of that when we lost to Minnesota. In a home-and-home series like the semifinals and final, usually the best team comes through with the win and that is what we are planning to do in the semifinal."
The Rowdies will host the second leg of the NASL Semifinal on Saturday, October 13 at Al Lang Stadium. The first leg of the semifinals will be played the weekend of October 6, with the opponent and location to be determined.
"It was a dificult game, especially in the second half," said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. "As the game progressed, they threw more and more players forward. They were desperate for that second place, and we knew that it was going to be a dificult game where we would be under this type of pressure. Of course we wanted to score the second goal and get the three points, but it is important that we did not lose and have already secured a spot in the semifinals."
Tampa Bay will play its last regular season game at Carolina on Saturday, September 22 at WakeMed Soccer Park with kick off at 7:00 p.m.
Tampa Bay: Andres Arango assisted by Luke Mulholland - 13th minute
Carolina: Ty Shipalane assisted by Brian Shriver - 61st minute
Tampa Bay: Andres Arango - 22nd minute
Tampa Bay Rowdies
GK Jeff Attinella, D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D JP Rodrigues, D Takuya Yamada, D Andres Arango, M Shane Hill, M Keith Savage (Raphael Cox 75'), M Evans Frimpong (Stuart Campbell 71'), M Luke Mulholland, F Mike Ambersley, F Carl Cort
GK Ryan Burse, D Jordan Graye, D Henry Kalungi, D Gale Agbossoumonde, D Kupono Low (Captain), M Amir Lowery, M Floyd Franks, M Nick Zimmerman (Matt Luzunaris 61'), M Brian Shriver (Austin Da Luz 86'), F Jason Garey, F Ty Shipalane (Cory Elenio 82')