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Tampa Bay Rowdies Claim 2012 NASL Championship over Minnesota Stars in Penalty Kick Shoot Out

2012 October 28
by Brian Quarstad

The Tampa Bay Rowdies celebrate winning the 2012 NASL Soccer Bowl.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies are the new NASL champions thanks in large part to NASL Best XI goalkeeper Jeff Attinella who made three saves in a penalty kick shootout which decided the outcome of the match on Saturday night. Attinella, a Clearwater, Florida native, thrilled 6,208 fans at a sold out Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg by making 6 saves in the course of the 120 minute match, which was necessary after the Rowdies scored 3 goals to the Stars’ 1 in the course of regulation play. The score set the aggregate total to 3 goals apiece forcing two 15 minute overtimes to decided the match. Despite being up a man after the 89th minute ejection of the Rowdies’ Shane Hill on a nasty tackle on Simone Bracalello, Minnesota was not able to take the upper hand. With the score still 3-1 Tampa Bay after overtime, the game went to penalty kicks.

The Stars’ Neil Hlavaty made the first kick but so did the Rowdies’ Luke Mulholland. Attinella blocked the next two shooters for Minnesota, Devin Del Do and Kyle Altman, while Tampa made their next two taken by Raphael Cox and Fafa Picault. Simone Bracalello buried his chance deep in the net and Tampa’s Carl Cort’s shot was turned away by Stars keeper Mat VanOekel, leaving a glimmer of hope for the Minnesota. But Attinella came up big again for the Rowdies blocking Lucas Rodriguez’ shot and capturing the 2012 NASL Soccer Bowl trophy for Tampa Bay.

The Stars started slowly in this match that saw the Rowdies attempt to break down the left side of Minnesota’s defense which worked for the most part. And from the right offensive side it was Keith Savage who forced VanOekel off his line to stop the unmarked midfielder. The ball fell to Cort who made no mistake burying the shot and putting Tampa ahead 1-0 in the 25th minute. VanOekel was called upon time and again to keep the Rowdies from scoring again with 6 saves being necessary in the first half.

After a poor first half for the Stars they regrouped and played better out of the gate. But it was the Rowdies again who scored in the 51st minute from Savage who finished off a cross from former Minnesota player Andres Arango. The 2-0 lead brought the aggregate total level at two apiece.

To the Stars credit they rallied quickly and Lucas Rodriguez, who had substituted for an injured Jamie Watson, finished his chance just two minutes later after getting a feed from Miguel Ibarra, bringing the score to 2-1 Tampa but putting Minnesota back on top 3-2 on total goals.

Minnesota seemed to be getting stronger as the minutes ticked off and the full ninety approached. But with a late Rowdies surge they took a 3-1 lead and evened the aggregate at 3-3 when Daniel Antoniuk finished a Mike Ambersly chip in the 85th minute.

The Stars’ Amani Walker tries to get his head on a ball that’s punched away by the Rowdies’ Jeff Attinella who came up big time after time for Tampa. Photo by Jeremy Olson – www.digitalgopher.net

A red card was shown to Tampa’s Shane Hill in the 89th minute which forced Tampa to play a man down for both overtimes. But the NASL Championship was not in the Stars this year as Tampa played resolute defense and shut out Minnesota in overtime and forced the game to PKs.

“I thought Tampa Bay created chances and I thought we created chances. It could have gone either way,” said Manny Lagos after composing himself from an earlier tearful tribute to his team on the live stream broadcast. “I thought it was a coin flip and that we did enough. But obviously it wasn’t quite enough. But these guys need to get their heads up. It’s an amazing group and they’ve had an amazing two year run of pushing the level — the quality of soccer. I can’t say enough about what this group of guys has done to put Minnesota on the map for soccer and to help the rebirth of the NASL – how they’ve represented the league. God, my guys have been amazing the last two years.”

Stars team captain Kyle Altman was more subdued than Lagos and more specific in pointing out the problems they had in the match. Fighting through emotion, team captain Kyle Altman said, “They got a goal at a good time. They scored 25 minutes into the game and got the early goal. That’s the one thing we couldn’t do. We let up at the back 5 minutes from time of wining the national championship game. We failed to win the 2nd ball after winning the first and next thing you know it’s a scramble in the box… it’s just disappointing. It’s all our own doing.”

“He’s a good keeper [Attinella], he made good saves. Mine [PK] was just a mental f-up, a lack of confidence when I went up there. I didn’t hit the ball the way I wanted to and unfortunately it hit him in the leg. It’s a position we’ve been in before, last year with Carolina. Unfortunately we just didn’t come though.”

Altman made special notice of the Dark Clouds and all the traveling supporters who made the trip. “We can’t thank them enough. They are out here battling Ralph’s Mob for us on their grounds. It was very uplifting. We have the best fans in the league — they showed that tonight. It’s just disappointing that we couldn’t bring a championship back to them because they deserved it.”

20 Responses
  1. bullsear permalink
    October 28, 2012

    Gutted.
    But my hat is off to both the Stars and the Rowdies.
    Our boys showed throughout the Championship Series that they deserved to be there; the Rowdies earned it on the night.

  2. Mark Kulda permalink
    October 28, 2012

    Can anybody explain why away goals is not a tie breaker in this league? Isn’t it in other international leagues?
    If it is a two game, total goals series, then I don’t understand why away goals isn’t used as a tie breaker.

  3. Ivan permalink
    October 28, 2012

    I went to the game last night. A great advert to the beautiful game and the NASL. Electric atmosphere in the stands, Ralph’s Mob didn’t quit, and neither did the Rowdies.

    The Rowdies needed this. Hopefully this leads to better attendance and increased visibility in the community. I am not sure that the club can survive on 3,500 diehard fans who show up game in and game out.

    Credit to coach Hill for building a very solid team in only 2 seasons. Attinela would be a top goalkeeper not only in MLS, but in almost any European league. Yes, the kid is good!

    Hopefully the Stars find a new owner and stay in the league.

    Cosmos joining the party should make for a very exciting 2013 season.

  4. Ryan Vollbrecht permalink
    October 28, 2012

    It’s always a shame when matches end like this. So even across both legs and then it is decided by penalty kicks, the most brutal game decider in all sports.

    Damn.. I’m just down today. Don’t feel like doing anything. Just waiting to know if I’ll have a team to cheer for next year.

  5. tomASS permalink
    October 28, 2012

    Ok congrats to the Rowdies, we will let you take care of the championship this year, but we will be asking for it back

  6. October 28, 2012

    Ivan, as heartbreaking as it was to lose I kept thinking that exact thing. That hopefully this will be very good for setting a vibe for the 2013 Rowdies in regard to attendance. That with the new PR team they hired will be critical next year as they will have to go up against the new USL PRO team put out by VSI.

  7. October 28, 2012

    @Mark Kulda, Not everyone feels the away goal rule is a good idea, even in Europe. Many feel it creates even a greater ability for a team to score one goal away and sit on the lead. CONCACAF Champions league sort of uses it but not like EUEFA. They use away goals at the end of full time of the second leg, but not applying the rule at the end of extra time. MLS does not use away goals.

  8. Soccer Boy permalink
    October 28, 2012

    I am gutted about last night as I think the Stars played more kickball than soccer. However, the Stars deserve tons of credit for having the #NutsOfAWarrior and coming close to keeping the Cup on what is likely the lowest payroll. I will be at the airport on Monday morning to welcome them back home. They are all heroes in my book!

    When is the NASL going to render their decision? Quite frankly, I think the league and the Board of Governors should have been more proactive. A great time for the Stars to sell season tickets for next season would have been during the playoffs. There were a lot of new faces in the crowd at the Scorpions and Rowdies matches. I am sure they would have made a ton of sales if they could have made the announcement, “Hey fans, stop by your nearest ticket rep and make a down payment on next season’s tickets.”

    Aaron Davidson and the rest of the league owe the Stars organization big time. The Thunder/Stars were after all part of the renegade groups that challenged USL Pro and help move the NASL into its re-birth. I was skeptical of Mr. Davidson back then, and still think he is slicker than any politician running for political office.

    He also made the case for having a three-year plan to find a team owner. Was he telling the truth, or just using the organization and its fans for his own personal gain? I tried asking the tough questions last week in MN, but he refused to answer then. Really not the best person to have as Chairman of the NASL Board of Governors if you ask me.

    This is sad!

    Come on guys, give us one more year to find and owner and #TakeBackTheCup!

  9. DarrenL permalink
    October 28, 2012

    I’m taking some vacation days to try and recover from this. Can only imagine how the Stars must feel. I concur with Manny’s comments about this being an F’ing great team. I had so much fun this season cheering these guys on. anxiously awaiting the decision about 2013 season. This team is too legit to quit.
    I hope the new NASL playoff scheme will work out, but its going to be hard to beat excitement on the road to the playoffs that we traveled this year.

  10. Steve permalink
    October 28, 2012

    Last night was the most amazing game I’ve seen in person, and possibly the most amazing game I’ve seen, period. The roller coaster of emotions took years off my life. I still need some time to properly convey my thoughts into coherent sentences that don’t have random screams in the middle.

    All credit to the Stars and the Dark Clouds. You did your team and your city proud. It’ll be an honor to play you guys again next year (and there will be a next year).

    Now, anyone want to tell me how this season would have been more exciting if we just had a one-game championship in San Antonio next week?

  11. John permalink
    October 28, 2012

    good to tampa bay rowdies now they got fire power to fend off USL Pro Tampa Bay team now all eyes and pressure is on the flames

    i think with no news and the success of the stars i hope they are considering to keep them

  12. Dan permalink
    October 28, 2012

    Congrats to Tampa on the win. I’m hoping the NASL will stabilize DivII for years to come. As a Montreal supporter, I still follow DivII with interest.

  13. Fotbalist permalink
    October 28, 2012

    Congrats to the Rowdies! Hopefully the Stars will be back next year.

  14. Stephen permalink
    October 28, 2012

    What a game! Something I’ll never forget. This simply could not have been a better final!

  15. October 29, 2012

    It might just be what the Rowdies need. The first iteration won the Soccer Bowl in their first year, 1975, and attendance shot up 60% in year 2. Only the Cosmos went up by a higher proportion from 1975 to 1976, but they had a much larger market AND they moved to Yankee Stadium that year.

    They finally have an “agent of record” in the same guys the Lightning use. So hopefully they will now be able to market the team properly.

  16. October 29, 2012

    (That comment was directed particularly to Brian, BTW. Sorry.)

  17. October 29, 2012

    Hey, I got that. :)

  18. Justin Neal permalink
    October 29, 2012

    I hope the new owner’s first name is not Dean? :)

  19. speedcake permalink
    October 29, 2012

    Winning a championship at home in front of a very good 2nd division crowd of over 6k and the hiring of a big time marketing firm (same on that does the Tampa Bay Lightning marketing) might just be what the Rowdies needed, indeed.

    I still think they need to be in Tampa or at least on that side of the bay, but in the meantime there is no reason why attendance can’t go up in St. Pete.

    also … YYYYEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! CHAMPIONS!!!

  20. WSW permalink
    October 30, 2012

    In the real soccer world: I would love to see this team play in MLS.

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