ST. PETERSBURG — It would almost be easier if they weren't playing well.
That, at least, would give the Rowdies an easy-to-accept frame for why they are suffering through their roughest patch of the season.
Tampa Bay has lost three straight, five of six and has tasted victory just twice through 10 games of the NASL's fall season.
Last week the Rowdies dominated league-leading Edmonton, consistently breaking down a defense that has allowed just 10 goals in 19 games, nine fewer than anyone else. Tampa Bay made 21 shots on goal to just nine for Edmonton but lost 1-0.
Even Edmonton coach Colin Miller had to admit how "fortunate" his team was last Saturday to endure a constant Tampa Bay attack, and praise how strong a club the Rowdies are.
"Hearing the coach compliment us, how we're the best team they've played. … that just made it worse," Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell said.
With a dozen games remaining, the Rowdies hope their fortunes start to flip tonight at Al Lang Stadium as Tampa Bay hosts Rayo OKC (3-3-4) at 7:30.
Campbell has racked his brain trying to fix his team's lack of offense, which reached a level of frustration when Edmonton goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel made a half-dozen or so saves.
Tampa Bay (2-6-2) has been shut out four times in the fall. Since their best outing, a 3-0 win over Puerto Rico on July 16, the Rowdies have just one victory from the last seven matches.
Since that match new players were added, but anyone thinking that the introductions of Martin Vingaard, Carlos Preciado and Victor Pagliari Giro (known as PC) has mangled team chemistry is mistaken.
"That's what makes it even more frustrating. The spirit in camp is great. The camaraderie, everything's in place. It's all there but for the results," Campbell said. "We're just not getting the results our performances deserve. I can't fault the attitude, it's not that we're not giving the effort. All I can fault is we don't score the goals our performances deserve and our chances create."
Campbell would gladly take a string of low-scoring results like the four consecutive 1-0 decisions Edmonton has rolled off.
"Everybody can see we are playing well. I'd much rather be in Edmonton's boat, keep (taking) 1-0 results," Campbell said. Tampa Bay has scored more goals (11) than Edmonton (9) this fall.
Tampa Bay must go without starting defender Neill Collins, who left early against Edmonton with a calf injury that might keep him out several weeks. The Rowdies do regain the services of midfielder Keith Savage who is recovering from a severe stomach virus.
Coming into tonight's matches, Edmonton has 39 points, followed by New York (38), and spring season champion Indy (37). The Rowdies are not out of it, sitting in eighth place in the combined seasons with 24 points. But clearly they have to start making up ground.
"We definitely still have time, and games," Campbell said. "I genuinely believe in the players. I keep waiting for us to catch fire. We keep knocking at the door."