TAMPA — For 90 minutes Thursday, the injury-riddled Rowdies held their own against Rochester, which entered third in the United States Soccer Federation Division 2.
One mistake, though, undid all of the hard work.
Substitute Andrew Hoxie pounced on goalkeeper Daryl Sattler's goal kick that stayed on the ground and passed to a wide open Isaac Kissi for the winner in stoppage time as Tampa Bay fell 1-0 in front of 3,882 at Steinbrenner Field.
Rowdies coach Paul Dalglish, whose team was without five starters, called the late goal "devastating," especially after watching his team create more scoring opportunities and holding more possession than the Rhinos.
"They were holding on," Dalglish said of Rochester's mentality as time wound down in the second half. "They were time-wasting … settling for a (tie). It's heartbreaking."
Perhaps most gut-wrenching about the Rowdies' loss was the mistake that sank them came from, arguably, their steadiest player all season.
"(Sattler has) done well this season. It was a little surprising. You don't expect it," Dalglish said. "It's tough for Daryl, but one thing I can say is he's very mentally tough. It won't affect him going into the next game."
For the third straight game, the Rowdies (5-7-5, 20 points) were unable to produce a goal despite a handful of opportunities. They now have scored just two goals in their past eight games.
In the 51st minute, Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe sent a left-footed shot from the top of the 18-yard box just wide. Three minutes later, Long Tan had nearly an identical opportunity but pushed his right-footed shot a couple of feet over the crossbar.
The Rowdies' best chance came in the 68th minute, when a header off of a long throw-in into the box caromed to Adjeman-Pamboe at the back post. The 22-year-old midfielder flicked a header toward goalkeeper Scott Vallow, but it trickled just wide.
"It's just unfortunate," Adjeman-Pamboe said. "That's the way soccer is sometimes. You press and press and press. The other team gets one chance, and they capitalize. At the end of the day, we still had chances, and we didn't finish those."
Following the goal by Rochester (8-4-6, 30 points), the Rowdies had a golden opportunity. But Jeremy Christie's header off of a corner kick from the newly acquired Jonathan Steele was, again, off target.
"I thought we played well," said Steele, who with fellow midfielder Ricardo Sanchez was acquired from Vancouver on Tuesday.
"The guys did fantastic; great work rate. We restricted them to very little chances until the end. Then we got a bit sloppy."
The Rowdies have lost seven of their past nine games and are tied for the last playoff spot with 13 games left. They will try to reverse their fortunes Sunday in a Coastal Cup match against Miami. The game is the third in a four-game homestand.
"A mistake in the last few seconds of the game, and we're beat," Dalglish said. "But there's nothing we can do to change it. We've got to dust ourselves off and make sure there's no excuses on Sunday."