It was a worst-case scenario start for the Rowdies on Saturday night, June 10. An otherwise boisterous evening was dulled by a clear lack of communication between goalkeeper Matt Pickens and defender Neil Collins, which led to an early goal for Rochester in the fourth minute, but the Rowdies fought back, earning a 1-1 draw.
“We started quite well,” midfielder and goal-scorer Joe Cole said. “Their goal came from nothing. Just a bit of a mix-up.”
Cole was part of the resilient effort that evened the teams on goal. The Rowdies have made a name for themselves this year with their resiliency, having secured at least a draw after conceding the first goal in four out of the last five league matches.
“That happens, but then the guys responded,” Coach Stuart Campbell said. “In the first half, I thought we were excellent and when we play as well as that, we have to go on and win the game. We have to put the game to bed.”
It was Cole who gave the crowd of 6,000-plus fans something to cheer about. He was at the right end of a brilliant cross from Marcel Schafer and got just enough of his foot on it to direct it pass the goalkeeper.
“Our goal came from a good passing move and Marcel put in a great ball,” Cole said.
Cole nearly doubled his tally in the second half but his shot agonizingly brushed by the goalpost, just wide of the target. The lone goal stood, and a second goal remained an object of longing, resulting in a draw.
This is the second time the Rowdies have faced Rochester, losing the first meeting, and drawing in the second, but Tampa Bay couldn’t break down the defensive-minded opponent.
“We didn’t take our chances right at the end,” Cole said. “We’ve got to work on that. It’s not something new we’re facing. We need to be better at breaking teams down.”
The crowd rallied hard behind the boys on the field, but were supporting more than just the team Saturday night.
The Rowdies were also celebrating Pride Night, and honoring the victims of last year's Pulse Night Club shooting. The night began with a solemn moment of silence as well as a stunning rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" performed by Una Voce: The Gay Men’s Chorus of Tampa Bay.
Fans will have to say farewell for to the Rowdies for a few weeks. They will be on the road for the next three matches, returning in triumph on July 6 when they will face FC Cincinnati. The match will be broadcast on ESPNU.
“It’s going to be a good spell for us,” Campbell said. “It’s going to test us, but we’re ready and if we perform how we did tonight, the we will definitely pick up a few points on the road.”