ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies hoped to improve their slippery playoff outlook Saturday. But a red card in the first half and two missed open-goal opportunities changed all that.
Before a home finale Al Lang Stadium crowd of 7,641, Tampa Bay managed a 1-1 draw with Ottawa but was eliminated from postseason contention with one match remaining. Rayo OKC's 2-0 victory at Fort Lauderdale gave it an unassailable five-point edge on Tampa Bay (9-10-12, 39 points) for the NASL's fourth and final playoff spot.
They needed help from elsewhere but in the end the Rowdies couldn't help themselves. Saturday marked their sixth game in 22 days but did not pick up a victory in that stretch.
"Spirit and togetherness were not the problem this year. Our problem, and you saw it virtually right up the last bloody kick of the match, was not scoring," said Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell.
Georgi Hristov gave the Rowdies hope with his team-high 11th goal on a pass from Justin Chavez. Neill Collins nearly scored on a header in the 79th minute that was tipped over the crossbar.
Even if the Rowdies had won, they would have had to hope for an OKC loss to Indy next Sunday while making up a four-goal difference to gain the tiebreaker. Tampa Bay concludes its season next Sunday at Jacksonville.
Saturday's outlook switched drastically before the half hour mark. Tampa Bay blew a scoring chance in the 23rd minute when Ottawa misplayed a ball and Joe Cole got around Fury goalkeeper Romuald Peiser on the left side of the penalty box. Cole spotted Eric Avila in front of the net but the time Cole sent the ball across, Ottawa's Rafael Alves cleared it out.
On Ottawa's ensuing rush, Tampa Bay's Darnell King got a red card as Ryan Williams was fouled and King was sent off in the 25th minute. On the resulting free kick, the Rowdies blocked the ball but on the bounce, Maxim Tissot scored on a shot that goalkeeper Matt Pickens couldn't handle and Ottawa led 1-0.
The game ended with 19 players as Ottawa's Eddie Edward was issued a red card in the 89th minute and Hristov was issued a second yellow for dissent in the 90th minute.