On Thursday evening in Tampa, the FC Tampa Bay Rowdies waited until stoppage time of their match with the Austin Aztex to score a goal and tie the Aztex 1-1. The last-minute result leaves the Rowdies five points behind NSC Minnesota in the chase for the final USSF D2 playoff spot, although FC Tampa Bay has four remaining games while NSC Minnesota only has two. The point earned by the Aztex leaves them two points behind USL Conference leaders Rochester, but the Aztex have two games in hand.
Thursday’s match pitted the leagues highest scoring offense, Austin, against an FC Tampa Bay squad that has netted 34 times, only a goal behind Rochester, Carolina and Puerto Rico, who are all tied for second in league scoring with 35 goals. Yet, despite eight shots by the Rowdies and four by the Aztex in the first half, neither team could find the back of the net.
Five minutes after intermission, though, Maxwell Griffin was able to spark the Aztex, beating Rowdies’ goalkeeper Josh Lambo for his eight goal of 2010 from an assist by his brother, defender Leonard Griffin. In a match that featured three yellow cards issued to each team, the Aztex displayed a hard edge and held off the Rowdies. Austin goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo made seven saves on the evening, and looked to register another clean sheet until Rowdies’ substitute Aaron King knocked in a rebound in stoppage time to give the Rowdies a much-needed point. The goal was King’s tenth of the season, and the team’s second last-gasp result in their last three matches, having come back from a two goal deficit against AC St. Louis on August 29 to gain a draw in the 90th minute.
Coach Adrian Heath’s Aztex will get little rest as they head to St. Louis for a Saturday match against the Saints. The Aztex are 2-0 against AC St. Louis this year. But the Aztex’ form has slipped lately in this otherwise brilliant season, as injuries have slowed the team. The Aztex have only gained six points out of their last five matches, but still lead the league in team scoring by a whopping twelve goal margin.
For Coach Paul Dalglish and his FC Tampa Bay squad, they will get at least a bit of rest before their Sunday afternoon matchup in Montreal. The Rowdies haven’t won since their July 25 victory over Miami FC. Gaining three points in Montreal will be crucial for the Rowdies’ playoff hopes leading into their September 24 showdown with NSC Minnesota.
Notes: Jay Needham of the Aztex made his return to the starting lineup after missing several games due to injury. He went the full 90 minutes. Thursday’s game ended the season series between the Aztex and Rowdies, with Ausin winning once and the team’s drawing three times. A total of 18 goals were scored by the two teams in their four matches. Former Crystal Palace Baltimore midfielder Tsuyoshi Yoshitake made his debut for Austin Thursday in a substitute role. Josh Lambo made his fifth appearance in goal for the Rowdies.
FC Tampa Bay Starting Lineup: Lambo, Valentino, Morrow, Diaz, Yamada, Steele, Sanchez, Millen, Christie, Adjeman-Pamboe, Wheeler Subs Used: Galindo, King, Gyorio
Austin Starting Lineup: Gallardo, Sakuda, Needham, L.Griffin, Bernard, L.Watson, Callahan, Alvarez, J.Watson, Johnson, M.Griffin Subs Used: Yoshitake, Patterson