Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Rochester Rhinos played to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium as the Rhinos extended their undefeated streak to seven games, and the Rowdies played to a third consecutive draw. The Rhinos (4-1-5, 17pts) took the lead in the fifth minute as Jochen Graf picked the pocket of Rowdies defender Neill Collins on a hopeful ball forward and was able to squeeze a finish home. Tampa Bay (6-3-5, 23pts) got back on level terms 14 minutes later as a move down the left released Marcel Schäfer, and his low cross was clipped in by Joe Cole at the near post. Leo Fernandes almost gave the Rowdies the lead soon after, his shot from 25 yards just missing the top-left corner. Cole almost added his second of the game after a fine passing move that saw Keith Savage play the former England international into the left side of the penalty area, but his shot slid just wide of the far post. Graf also went close to a brace for the Rhinos as he broke in behind Tampa Bay’s defense, only for Matt Pickens to make the initial save, and Michael Nanchoff blocked the rebound effort by Brandon Beresford. The Rhinos went close again as a free kick slid all the way through the penalty area and had to be turned away by Pickens, while Beresford found the side-netting just wide of the right post with a clear look from 10 yards out with seven minutes remaining. The Rowdies had most of the late pressure, but the Rhinos held firm to earn a second consecutive draw.
5’ – ROC – Jochen Graf (Wal Fall)
19’ – TBR – Joe Cole (Marcel Schäfer)
Three Things That Matter:
1. The Rhinos got out to a dream start on the sort of play that you’d think Head Coach Bob Lilley preaches are necessary to find success in a tight game. Jochen Graf’s hustle to catch out Neill Collins and find a way to finish as he went to ground were symbolic of the manner in which the Rhinos have always played under Lilley, making their hard work pay off to take advantage of slim opportunities. The early goal allowed the Rhinos to settle into the game they wanted to play on the counter-attack.
2. The Rowdies got back on level terms thanks to a perfect example of the quality former internationals Marcel Schäfer and Joe Cole have brought to the side since arriving in Tampa Bay. Schäfer’s overlapping run down the left side resulted in a perfect first-time cross to the near post, and Cole’s deft finish as he anticipated the play perfectly gave Rhinos goalkeeper Tomas Gomez little chance to save.
3. Both teams could have earned all three points in a second half that provided plenty of entertainment, and big chances at either end. The Rhinos will be happier to take a point from the game, though, even though they arguably had an equal claim to the victory with the chances they were able to produce. For the Rowdies, a third consecutive draw means more ground lost on the Charleston Battery – who took victory on Saturday night – and that the Rowdies might have to start looking over their shoulder as others start to close in.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Marcel Schäfer, Tampa Bay Rowdies – Schäfer provided the assist on the game-tying goal, and was industrious down the left side throughout, in particular as the Rowdies pushed for a winner late.
Tampa Bay Rowdies at Richmond Kickers – June 17, 7 p.m. ET, City Stadium
Rochester Rhinos vs. Ottawa Fury FC – June 17, 6:05 p.m. ET, Capelli Sport Stadium