St. PETERSBURG — Neill Collins, the former Rowdies defender who this week abruptly replaced Stuart Campbell as coach of the team, was a bit ambivalent about his debut, but he sure liked the way his club played in the second half of Saturday's game at Al Lang Stadium.
Tampa Bay scored early, then fell behind before rallying for a 2-2 tie with Pittsburgh, nearly completing the comeback with a stellar scoring chance in the waning minutes.
"We'll not be celebrating too many ties," said Collins, adding that "we could've lost it, but we went for it. At the end of the day, that's what football is all about."
Before Saturday, the Rowdies had not lost or allowed a goal at home with a 3-0 record and 9-0 scoring advantage. Tampa Bay improved to 4-5-1 overall and snapped a three-game losing streak. The Riverhounds (4-1-4) got their first tie.
Only a punch-out save by goalkeeper Daniel Lynd off a point-blank header by Rowdies midfielder Junior Flemmings kept Pittsburgh out of the losing column.
Tampa Bay trailed 2-1 at halftime before Joe Cole tied it with his third goal of the season, all of which have come at home. Cole's free kick from just outside the left corner of the penalty box squirted through the arms of Lynd in the 60th minute to make it 2-2.
Not long after that, Rowdies keeper Akira Fitzgerald made a point-blank stop on Hugh Roberts and later made a sprawling save on a close-range bid by Neco Brett to preserve the tie.
The Rowdies struck early with Lance Rozeboom redirecting a through ball from Alex Morrell that slipped through the hands of a diving Lynd in the third minute.
"Neill made a point to play quick off the corners," said Rozeboom, who notched his first goal of the season. "It was a good start for us."
Pittsburgh tied it in the 25th minute on a play that defender Max Lachowecki wishes he had back. Romeo Parkes blasted a shot from the right side that Fitzgerald batted high into the air. When the ball landed near the Rowdies goal line, Lachowecki whiffed on a clearing attempt and the ball rolled into the net.
The Riverhounds went ahead 2-1 nine minutes later after Parkes converted a 2-on-1 with Kenardo Forbes. Tampa Bay appeared to get the equalizer a few minutes later, but Morrell's conversion off a cross from Marcel Schafer was nullified by a late offsides call.