The Tampa Bay Rowdies set out to extend their nine-match unbeaten run against the Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, FL. The teams played the first half out to a goalless draw in front of a buzzing crowd.
Tampa Bay was inches away from opening the scoring in the 4th minute when midfielder Luke Mulholland whipped in a corner kick to forward Lucky Mkosana, whose header was cleared off of the line. The reigning NASL champions almost broke the deadlock once more in the fifth minute when Evans Frimpong played a low cross across the six yard box to forward Georgi Hristov, whose sliding shot went just wide of Atlanta’s goal.
The Rowdies began to emerge as the dominant side as the first half progressed, putting pressure on Atlanta’s goal and controlling possession. Neither side could really challenge the keepers, with both teams firing shots far above the goals on both sides of the pitch.
The Silverbacks were awarded a penalty kick when Rowdies center back Jay Needham tripped up a Silverbacks attacker in the 38th minute. Ruben Luna’s shot was saved by Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, who dived low to his right.
After the penalty, the game became much more open. The teams went back and forth attacking each other. The two traded chances for the remainder of the first half although neither team could break the deadlock, thanks to good play from Restrepo and Atlanta goalkeeper Joe Nasco.
We’ve done some things ok and there’s some things we need to change at halftime,” said Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes. “It’s not terrible, but we missed a penalty kick and we should be ahead.”
Rowdies coach Ricky Hill added: “Once again we’re indebted to Diego Restrepo for getting us out of the fire. Fortunately for us we dodged another bullet.
“We will do the same again if we can in terms of creating opportunities but we need to start to connect with the midfield players instead of trying to go for the killer ball right away. We’ve got a 45-minute game and if we win this half we win the three points.”
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