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Rowdies settle for draw at home

By Rodney Page

ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

Tampa Bay is 9-1-3 at home this year. The only loss is to Charleston on April 22. The Rowdies are 10-6-8 overall and solidly in playoff contention in the USL's Eastern Conference.

"It was just one of those scrappy old games,'' coach Stuart Campbell said. "It's unusual for us because we've been excellent at home. It's seems a bit strange dropping points at home, but that's life.''

Tied at halftime, neither team had many good chances in the second half as both defenses clamped down. Ottawa had two free kicks just outside the 18-yard box, but one hit the Rowdies' wall and the other sailed over the goal post.

In the 84th minute, Tampa Bay's Justin Chavez had a header from about 10 yards miss just to the right of goal. In extra time, another Rowdies header off a cross was wide of the goal.

Ottawa scored the first goal of the match, and it didn't take long. In the third minute, Fury forward Steevan Dos Santos was open just beyond the 18-yard box. He took a right-footed shot that went through defender Neill Collins' legs and past goalkeeper Matt Pickens. It was Ottawa's first shot of the game. The goal was the first the Rowdies had given up at home since June 10 against Rochester.

Ottawa's lead was short-lived. In the 11th minute, Marcel Schafer drove into the left corner and sent a cross into the box. Fury defender Ramon Martin Del Campo's clearance went right to Georgi Hristov 15 yards from goal. Hristov settled the ball and drilled a left-footer into the lower right corner to tie it at 1.

"I was a bit fortunate,'' Hristov said. "I was in the box, and I was expecting something, so when it came to me, I decided to go far post. That worked out great for me.''

The Rowdies get a much-needed week off before beginning a three-game road trip. This will be their first off week since the season started March 25. The break should allow forward Joe Cole (back) and midfielder Keith Savage (ankle) to return to the lineup.

This was also the Rowdies' last home game until Sept. 23.