The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Carolina RailHawks played to a 0-0 tie at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night. The reigning NASL Champions didn’t take long to show why they took the title home last year, pressuring the Carolina RailHawks from the opening kickoff. Rowdies defender Jay Needham had two dangerous headers early on, with his second attempt in the 18th minute being waived off due to an offside call.
"Overall I was happy with our performance, apart from not getting that all-important first goal,” said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. “I felt defensively we looked sound and solid. Offensively, with a little more composure, we might have opened them up. We’d like to win out home games, but a point is a good start to the season.”
Midfielders Luke Mulholland and Evans Frimpong continuously fed the ball into the box looking for the attacking targets on the field. Mulholland came close to scoring the first goal of the season for the Rowdies in the 30th minute off a perfectly placed free kick. RailHawks goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald was quick on his feet and punched the ball out for a corner kick.
"Luck wasn't on our side tonight," commented Mulholland. "We created chances that could put us in front playing a compact and controlled style tonight. We have to make sure we put away our chances and it is something we'll work on at practice this week."
With the Rowdies dominating the first half, the last chance came in the 38th minute with a dangerous header from forward Amani Walker. Midfielder Raphael Cox delivered a great cross, but Walker’s header at the far post was tipped out by Fitzgerald.
The Rowdies continued to dominate the second half as they held off the RailHawks while creating plenty of chances on goal. The Rowdies had their best scoring chance in the 79th minute when second-half substitute Devin Del Do’s header deflected off of the crossbar for a goal kick.
"Our performance was positive tonight," stated Del Do. "It's encouraging that we are producing these opportunities, now we just have to find a way to finish in the final third. We have to concentrate in those scoring opportunities and put these games away early."
Mulholland moved the ball around well for the Rowdies as he continuously connected passes to help keep possession and try to break down the RailHawks defense. In the dying minutes, Carolina's center back Paul Hamilton received his second yellow card, which opened things up for the Rowdies offensively.
In the end, the match ended as a tie with neither team able to put the ball in the back of the net. The Rowdies out shot the RailHawks 17 -6, forcing Fitzgerald to make seven crucial saves to maintain the score 0-0.
Tampa Bay: Luke Mulholland (77th minute)
Carolina: Austin Da Luz (77th minute)
Tampa Bay: Raphael Cox (80th minute)
Carolina: Paul Hamilton (80th minute)
Carolina: Paul Hamilton (90th minute)
GK Andrew Fontein; D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D Jay Needham, D Takuya Yamada, D Andres Arango; M Evans Frimpong (Alex Dixon 71'), M Stuart Campbell, M Luke Mulholland, M Raphael Cox; F Amani Walker (Devin Del Do 65'), Georgi Hristov (Kyle Clinton 90')
GK Akira Fitzgerald; D Jordan Graye, D Paul Hamilton, D Austen King, D Kupono Low (Captain); M Brian Shriver (Sam Stockley 90'), M Floyd Franks, M Nick Millington, M Austin Da Luz (Ciaran O'Brien 83'); F Brian Ackley, F Zack Schilawski (Ty Shipalane 72')
The Rowdies will continue their quest to defend the NASL Soccer Bowl title next week, when they travel to play the 2012 regular season champions San Antonio Scorpions on Saturday, April 13. The game will be the first-ever NASL match played in the Scorpions’ newly built 8,500-seat soccer-specific stadium, Toyota Field.