TAMPA — Mistakes aren't always a negative, according to Rowdies coach Paul Dalglish.
If you learn from them, that is.
That's the message Dalglish reiterated this week in practice after the team's 2-2 tie Saturday against Portland, a game that saw the Rowdies grab a 2-1 lead in the 57th minute on a well struck free kick from Ricardo Sanchez before allowing the equalizer in the 81st minute.
"It's disappointing that we couldn't close out the win," Dalglish said. "But when you've got young players, you've got to accept that. We'll learn from it, and we'll be better for the experience."
Of greatest concern to Dalglish was the inability to maintain possession after taking an early advantage after halftime. Some of the blame could be attributed to Portland, which ratcheted up the pressure once it fell behind.
But the Rowdies didn't help matters. Time and time again, they panicked in the face of Portland's pressure, hurriedly sending balls forward with no clear-cut target.
"I think it's a confidence thing and an experience thing," Dalglish said. "Our ball retention was fantastic before we scored the second goal. All through the first half it was probably as well as we've kept the ball all season.
"It was just disappointing that once we scored the second goal, once it's even more important to keep the ball, that we started giving it away and letting them back into the game."
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Rowdies collected five points on their recent four-game homestand (July 15-31), which was enough to keep them locked into a playoff berth if the season were to end today. The Rowdies are tied with Montreal in seventh with 24 points, though the Rowdies have played one fewer game. Puerto Rico, at 23 points and in ninth place, would be on the outside looking in. The top eight teams in the U.S. Soccer Federation Division 2 qualify for the playoffs.
INJURY NEWS: Midfielder Jeremy Christie was expected to return to the lineup against Portland but was held out again because of a groin injury. Dalglish didn't sound too upbeat when asked if Christie would be available Saturday at Austin.
"We thought when we rested him last time that he would have been ready to go," Dalglish said. "He tried to train a couple of days when he came back, and he felt a reaction to it so we just had to pull him out again. … We've got no idea how long it'll be because if you had asked us before, we would have thought he'd be ready now. With a groin injury, you've just got to try to be patient and wait until the player tells you he's ready."
Of the team's injured players, fullback Gordon Kljestan is the most likely to return against Austin.
"Gordon's pretty close and then we hope for Jeremy and (Aaron) Wheeler in the not too distant future," Dalglish said.
KICKS IN THE GRASS: After going three straight games without scoring, the Rowdies have put two into the back of the net in their past two outings. Against Portland, the Rowdies delivered two of the more crowd-pleasing goals of the season. Forward Aaron King showed keen awareness to chip a shot over an out-of-position goalkeeper from the corner of the 18 for the Rowdies' first score. Sanchez followed after halftime with his free kick blast that had no chance of being saved. "Two of the best goals you'll ever see, I think, at Steinbrenner Field," Dalglish said. … The Rowdies begin three straight road games Saturday against league-leading Austin. Matches at Puerto Rico (Aug. 11) and Miami (Aug. 14), teams below the Rowdies in the league standings, follow.