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Rowdies eliminated from playoffs after 1-1 draw with Ottawa

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There will be no post-season for the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The Rowdies were eliminated from the NASL playoffs Saturday in a 1-1 tie against the Ottawa Fury FC at Al Lang Stadium. After Rayo OKC beat Fort Lauderdale, 2-0, the Rowdies had to win to stay in the race.

Ottawa’s Maxim Tissot put his team ahead in the 27th minute. Georgi Hristov equalized for the Rowdies in the 48th minute.

“It was an eventful night and it’ll take a while to digest,” Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell said. “We were hoping that we were going to sneak a goal and we nearly did late, but there’s just a lot of frustration for our season to end in the manner that it did. I give a ton of credit to the guys in the locker room and the crowd that pushed them on, but in the end, we just didn’t score enough goals.”

The Rowdies struggled for most of the night, especially after a red card to Darnell King left them with 10 men. Eric Avila was injured 10 minutes later.

“It was an emotional night,” Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens said. “The guys fought their tails off. We lost (Avila), we lost Darnell to the red card, we’re down a goal but the guys kept fighting through everything that was happening. The guys pushed and pushed and pushed and I’m proud of the guys and the coaching staff that all tried so hard tonight. I’m just really proud of the effort. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Rowdies player today, even though we didn’t get the three points.”

The match turned in the 26th minute when a long pass sent Fury FC forward Ryan Williams in on goal, chasing the ball toward the corner flag to collect. Just outside the 18-yard box, King made contact with Williams and was ejected from the match.

On the ensuing free kick, Tampa Bay’s wall blocked Carl Haworth’s shot, but Tissot latched onto the rebound and sent a bouncing ball that bobbled over Pickens’ dive and into the net for a 1-0 lead and a man advantage.

Just after the halftime break, the Rowdies found their lifeline, with Hristov on the receiving end of a silky through ball between Ottawa’s lines from Justin Chavez which was finished past Fury FC goalkeeper Romuald Peiser and into the side netting to level the match at 1-1.

Hristov could’ve put the Rowdies ahead just four minutes later when he had a breakaway, but Peiser advanced off his line to shut the play down before Hristov could shoot.

Tampa Bay had three shots on target in the second half and nearly scored a winner late when a corner kick induced chaos in Ottawa’s 6-yard box, but eventually, the Fury FC was able to clear the ball.

Both teams had a player sent off in the closing minutes of the match, which ended 10 vs. 9.

“Maybe if those things that happened in the first half don’t happen, we end up winning this game,” said Pickens. “We came up short again and we’re all disappointed. We just needed a little more help. There’s a lot of things that went into that game tonight.”

Tampa Bay wraps up the 2016 regular season next Sunday, October 30, with an afternoon game against the Jacksonville Armada FC in Jacksonville.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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