A penalty kick goal by midfielder Luke Mulholland gave the host Tampa Bay Rowdies a 1-0 victory over the San Antonio Scorpions in front of 3,237 spectators at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday evening.
The victory keeps the second-place Rowdies as one of only two remaining teams (other are first-place New York Cosmos) with a chance to win the 2013 Fall Season title and a berth to the NASL Soccer Bowl against the Spring Champion Atlanta Silverbacks on November 9 in Atlanta.
“It was great goal by Luke (Mulholland),” said Rowdies coach, Ricky Hill. “After that we became a bit nervous and edgy and we went with a back five to close out the game and we had Diego (Restrepo) making some good saves as well as the defense."
However, the Cosmos host FC Edmonton on Sunday afternoon and a win will secure them their first berth to the NASL Soccer Bowl since 1982.
“We wish Edmonton all the best,” Hill added. “The Cosmos are a great side as they have shown during the recent results and are playing great ball.”
The first dangerous chance of the match came in the 11th minute, when Scorpions forward Sainey Touray made a run down the right flank and forced Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo to make a save on his shot.
Few minutes later defender Raphael Cox led a great counter attack but the Scorpions were able to regain control of the ball before the Rowdies could get a shot off.
In the 22nd minute, San Antonio threatened to score once again, as Gambia native Touray picked up a rebound off a the Venezuelan Restrepo save and smashed his shot off the crossbar.
The Rowdies would retaliate with forward Lucky Mkosana driving his shot on goal in the 25th minute, only to find a diving goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo on the other end to make the save.
The Rowdies continued to pressure the Scorpions in the second part of the half, but they would be unable to get any clear chances on goal. During an exciting first half, both teams had a goal disallowed due to offsides.
Tampa Bay continued to apply the pressure in the second half knowing that they needed to win in order to stay in the race for the Fall Season title. A great play by Zimbabwe native Mkosana led to the first chance of the second half as he back heeled a pass to Mulholland, who took a strike but his attempt went straight to Vuolo.
As the Rowdies inclined the pressure on the Scorpions’ goal, the break came in the 74th minute as defender Greg Janicki brought down Rowdies forward Etienne Barbara in the box. The English midfielder Mulholland capitalized on the penalty pick, placing it on the bottom right corner of the net for his ninth goal of the season.
The Scorpions pushed for the equalizer in the final 15 minutes, but the Rowdies defense was able to clear away any dangerous chances. With the 1-0 win, the Rowdies have now won four straight matches at home.
"It's a bit unfortunate that the result went Tampa's way," Scorpions interim coach, Alen Marcina, who’s side is now eliminated from a possible berth to the NASL Soccer Bowl with the loss tonight. "All credit to the Rowdies for being able to get the result, but I thought we were the better team. We created a lot of chances but couldn't put them away."
Along with the Scorpions, the Carolina RailHawks, who knocked off the host Minnesota United FC earlier, is also out of contention for the Soccer Bowl as the possible best second-place team because the Atlanta Silverbacks failed to stay in the running for the Fall title as they lost on the road this evening to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
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|New York Cosmos||14||9||4||1||10||31|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||14||5||5||4||3||20|
|Minnesota United FC||14||6||2||6||2||20|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||14||5||3||6||-2||18|
|San Antonio Scorpions||14||3||1||10||-9||10|
|San Antonio Scorpions||12||6||2||4||4||20|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||12||5||3||4||5||18|
|Minnesota United FC||12||4||2||6||-5||14|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||12||2||2||8||-14||8|