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Rowdies fight to a 0-0 draw with expansion Puerto Rico

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A familiar problem caught up the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Puerto Rico Saturday night.

The ability to finish.

The Rowdies ended up in a scoreless tie with the expansion Puerto Rico team in Bayamo, Puerto Rico. Both teams had scoring chances, but neither could convert.

“In the first half, they pressured us high up the field but we were also able to create chances of our own,” said Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell. “I took a gamble in the second half with the two substitutions but unfortunately we weren’t able to come away with the win. Credit to our players for putting in a great effort on the road.”

It didn’t take long for the Rowdies to create their first dangerous chance of the night coming from a feed into the box from defender PC. Rowdies forward Tommy Heinemann was unable to get a clean shot off, which would have given the visiting team the lead after just six minutes.

The best chance of the night came in the 32nd minute, when Puerto Rico was awarded a free kick just inches outside the 18-yard box. It was Paulo Mendes who almost put the home team ahead, curling his free kick from the left flank off the crossbar.

As the half came to a close the Rowdies came close to scoring, but midfielder Martin Vingaard had his shot knocked away by a stretching save by Puerto Rico goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg.

Although the Rowdies controlled possession for the majority of the second half, Puerto Rico had the first dangerous chance in the second half. A through ball found midfielder Michael Kafari alone on goal against Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens but it was a last-second tackle by defender PC that would force the Puerto Rico midfielder to take an uncomfortable shot.

“We worked on keeping our defensive shape all week long and I think it showed,” said Rowdies defender Tamika Mkandawire. “We were able to keep one of the league’s top strikers, Hector Ramos, off the score sheet and that was important for us. It was a good performance by us, where we generated plenty of chances but couldn’t get the win.”

With the match tied 0-0 and time winding down, the Rowdies were poised to look for the game-winning goal.

The Rowdies created several chances in the final minutes of play, but it was Pueto Rico’s defense that stepped up to block all of the Rowdies chances. The most dangerous one came in the third minute of stoppage time, with Hristov firing a show on target. Spangenberg made a diving save to send the ball out for a corner kick.

“We get to come back home and face a tough Carolina RailHawks team next Saturday and I am excited to play in front of our fans,” said Campbell. “We have a very good record at home and it’s important to come away with a win to stay in the playoff race.”

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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