Tampa Bay Rowdies Ruin Carolina RailHawks Semifinal Home Leg
The Tampa Bay Rowdies took a solid step towards the NASL playoff finals with a 2-1 first leg semifinal win in Carolina. The RailHawks and Rowdies will meet again in the second leg next Saturday, kicking off at 7:30 pm EDT, at the Rowdies’ Al Lang Stadium home. The Rowdies are now unbeaten in their last seven games, having allowed only three goals during that streak.
“Tonight we played a good game, but didn’t finish our chances,” said Carolina head coach Colin Clarke. “We dominated much of the game, passed the ball well, created chances, but we didn’t finish and that costs us the game. We still have 90 minutes and we are going to work on finishing up our chances.”
A scoreless first half saw both teams with chances. Ty Shipalane, who has been a scorer of dramatic goals for Carolina this season, had two bites of the apple early in the half, but Tampa Bay goalkeeper Jeff Attinella was up to the challenge. Carl Cort, the tall veteran striker who joined the Rowdies in August, had a 12th minute opportunity but his shot went wide. A level first half was no surprise to those aware that the two clubs had drawn in their four 2012 regular season matches.
Mike Ambersley was the game’s first goal scorer, giving the lead to 2012 NASL Coach of the Year Ricky Hill and his Rowdies in the 63rd minute, with the coach’s son, Shane Hill, providing the opportunity for the veteran forward from St. Louis. Minutes later, the RailHawks looked to equalize, but Rowdies captain Frankie Sanfilippo helped defuse a chance from former UNC Tar Heel Brian Shriver.
Shriver did equalize minutes later. The RailHawks attacker, who combined with Shipalane for 13 of the 17 shots taken by the RailHawks in the match, converted a 78th minute penalty kick, giving the 3,183 RailHawks fans at WakeMed Soccer Park a reason to feel optimistic.
The RailHawks faithful didn’t have long to feel that way, though. Ghanian-born Evans Frimpong found fellow second half substitute Daniel Antoniuk with a cross after some nice work eluding a defender. The veteran forward nodded in with five minutes left to give the Rowdies a big away win in their semifinal series with the RailHawks. It was Antoniuk’s eighth goal of the campaign.
Earlier in the week, Rowdies Coach Hill talked about the importance of the away fixture.
“We know that the match on Saturday will be tough,” said Hill. “It is crucial to get a good result in order to come back to Al Lang Stadium next week and grab the ticket into the finals. I am pleased with our style of play at different moments in the last two matches against Carolina.”
“With that being said, we need to implement our style throughout both legs of the semifinals. If we want to be in the finals, we cannot make any mistakes and I have told the players that I expect them to go out there on Saturday with a winning mentality. We hope to come back to Al Lang with a positive result, knowing that our fans will be there on the 13th supporting us like they have done all season long.”
Hill got his wish, thanks to goals by the two veteran Rowdies forwards, in a match where Tampa Bay were outshot 17-9 and earned only one corner kick to the six taken by Carolina. With attackers like Nick Zimmerman, the league’s second leading goal scorer in 2012, along with Shriver and Shipalane, Colin Clarke’s squad is down but definitely not out in a series between two well-matched clubs.