The Tampa Bay Rowdies and the New York Cosmos drew 0-0 at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night, in front of a sold out crowd of 7,032 fans. Both team had several chances to get on the scoresheet but the return of the historic rivalry ended in a scoreless draw.
"We created several chances but it wasn't enough," said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. "I was pleased with our defense and obviously Diego for coming up huge in goal for us. We need to work on getting the ball up to our forwards more often."
The game began as a very back-and-forth contest with the two rivals changing possession in the beginning minutes. Scoring chances, however, were very limited. Both teams were able to get a couple weak efforts on target but nothing was able to really trouble either keeper.
The NASL newcomers threatened once more when midfielder Joseph Nane directed a header onto goalkeeper Diego Restrepo’s post in the 21st minute. They threatened again when midfielder Peri Marosevic played a low cross which forced Restrepo to dive and collect the ball.
The Rowdies then got a very solid opportunity to break the deadlock in the 38th minute when forward Carl Cort broke free on goal, but his shot from the top of the 18 yard box was saved low to Cosmos goalkeeper Kyle Reynish’s left.
The Rowdies were awarded a free kick from 25 yards out in the 43rd minute which Luke Mulholland sent just wide of Reynish’s net, forcing the keeper to fully extend himself. The half ended scoreless, not for a lack of chances.
The reigning Soccer Bowl champions started quickly in the second half, with Mulholland sending in a cross after just one minute which the Cosmos had to head behind for a corner. Forward Georgi Hristov, was lurking at the far post, had the ball not been sent behind.
As the half progressed, the Cosmos began to pile pressure onto the Rowdies net, resulting in a couple chances for the New Yorkers, all blocked by a stout Tampa Bay defense. Rowdies’ midfielder Evans Frimpong almost put Tampa Bay ahead with a shot from distance which was deflected just wide of the Cosmos’ net.
The Cosmos also had three shots saved off of the goal line in the 77th minute as a result of a corner. Restrepo did well to come back across to block a shot with his legs. The Rowdies went right back across the field and had a goal disallowed to an offsides given against Georgi Hristov.
"We had a fantastic defensive match, not allowing them to score any goals," explained Restrepo. "The defense was able to keep their composure throughout the match, and luckily I was able to make several key saves."
Hristov almost put the Rowdies ahead once more, but his left footed shot went over the bar after he was played in on the left flank. Luke Mulholland received his second yellow card of the game and was sent off in stoppage time of the second half, but the Cosmos did not have enough time to capitalize on their advantage.
The game ended as a scoreless draw, but it was exciting nonetheless. The two bitter rivals from the original NASL provided plenty of chances to put their respective sides ahead but neither team could convert.