ST. PETERSBURG — During the Rowdies' two-game winning streak entering their match against Carolina at Al Lang Stadium, the offense had been firing on all cylinders, recording seven goals and threatening with regularity to put more on the scoreboard.
The attack ran out of gas, however, in front of 4,212 Saturday night.
Tampa Bay failed to produce a goal despite dominating possession, and Tiyi Shipalane's stoppage-time winner gave Carolina all three points in a disheartening 1-0 defeat.
"It's a lesson to be learned. The game is 90-plus minutes," coach Ricky Hill said. "Irrespective of the dominance and whatever possession we've had, we must maintain focus and concentration for that full amount of time. I think anyone that was here would suggest (the goal) was a little bit of a smash-and-grab result."
The Rowdies (4-3-0, 12 points fall season; 6-6-4 22 overall) were on the verge of extending their unbeaten streak to three matches after 90-plus scoreless minutes. One moment of precision from Carolina, however, was all it took to send the visitors home victorious.
After a corner kick, the RailHawks worked the ball around to Daniel Jackson on the left edge of goal. Jackson slipped a pass into the middle of the box, where Shipalane was wide open to power a shot past goalkeeper Matt Pickens from 14 yards.
"It's just the game of soccer where you can dominate a game for 90 minutes and one little opportunity they have, they put it in," Rowdies defender and captain Frankie Sanfilippo said. "I don't remember any time Pickens … was under the gun. It hurts. It's unfortunate."
Georgi Hristov was close to adding to his team lead in goals (five) with a one-on-one chance against Carolina goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald in the 79th minute following a perfectly placed pass by second-half substitute Lucky Mkosana, but the forward was stonewalled from 12 yards.
"We had a spell in the second half from the 79th minute onwards for about four minutes where we played a proper tempo," Hill said. "We caused them some anxiety in the box. They miskicked balls, they blocked balls, they deflected balls, and that's the kind of action I expect us to have throughout."
Tampa Bay's best first-half scoring opportunity came in the 42nd minute when Keith Savage took a pass on the left edge of goal, dribbled toward the middle and unleashed a bouncing shot that Fitzgerald parried over the goal line.
The Rowdies return to action on the road Saturday against Ottawa.