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Rowdies still have a shot after shorthanded victory

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They stayed alive, bless their short little hands.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies, still clinging to one final hope in the spring NASL season, at least kept their possibilities alive Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium, beating Edmonton 2-1 to take over second place in the league standings.

The Rowdies now trail the New York Cosmos by three points in the league standings. To win the title, Tampa Bay would have to beat Atlanta, which is tied for last in the NASL, while hoping that seventh place Jacksonville upsets the Cosmos. The Rowdies would also have to make up a six-goal differential in the game.

As unlikely as that may be, the Rowdies at least gave themselves a chance with their short-handed win on Saturday night. Missing team leading scorer Maicon Santos, league-leading assist man Georgi Hristov and defender Stefan Antonijevic, all out after receiving red cards against Indianapolis last week. In all, the Rowdies played without five players who started last week’s game.

“We can determine our own fate in terms of winning games,” Rowdies Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. “We need a little help, I understand that. We set out to, in this home stretch of two games, get six points. We’ve got three now with another good team in Atlanta coming here next week. Let the chips fall where they may.”

The Rowdies scored first when Darwin Espinal, who it was just announced will join the national team from Honduras, scored on a rebound from close range. Corey Hertzog had shot from the end line, but Eddies’ goalkeeper John Smits was unable to control the ball, and Espinal poked it in.

In the 60th minute, Smits again stopped a shot by Hertzog, but Brian Shiver – a former Golden Boot winner getting his first significant time of the year – booted into the top right corner for a 2-0 lead.

Lance Laing would score for Edmonton to cut the final deficit to one.

“I was having fun out there,” Shriver said. “It was the first time I’ve gotten to play significant minutes in a game this year, so it was a chance to show what I can do. I saw the ball coming right to me, and I thought I needed to take a good first touch and get a clean shot off. I hit it nice and I was hoping it would get through the traffic. There were a lot of bodies in front of the net. Once it went through and hit the back of the net, it was a great feeling.”

The Rowdies are home for their final game of the spring season next week at Al Lang at 7:30 p.m.

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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