ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies enjoyed being back above the playoff cutline Wednesday, but unfortunately that lasted all of four minutes. Long Tan's goal in the 63rd minute gave the Rowdies what was a short-lived lead as Indy Eleven came back for a 1-1 draw at Al Lang.
The point puts the Rowdies into a fourth-place tie with Edmonton for the final playoff spot, both with 34 points with five games remaining. Fort Lauderdale is three points behind with a game in hand.
Should the Rowdies fail to qualify they can point to being unable to take a win in three matches against Indy, the last-place team in the NASL. At the final whistle, Rowdies players dropped in disgust.
Two first-time starters had a major impact for Tampa Bay, with Freddy Adu assisting on the goal. Adu's corner kick found Tan on the doorstep for an easy tap-in.
But Indy drew a foul just outside the top of the penalty box four minutes later. Tampa Bay's wall thwarted the first try but Jaime Frias' shot from 25 yards was headed wide and bounced off a Rowdies player, wrongfooting goalie Matt Pickens and tying it.
Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell said he was "bamboozled" by the foul call, made by the linesman. "We've had some incredible decisions go against us the last 2-3 games," Campbell said. "I'd be curious to know where the foul was, because it sure as hell wasn't at the top of the 18-yard box. Then to score with a speculative shot. I'm gutted. For our players, and for our fans."
The Rowdies tried to return the favor with 10 minutes left, as Darnell King's cross attempt went off an Indy defender and right to Corey Hertzog. But Indy goaltender Keith Cardona made the stop.
Adu and Georgi Hristov created a handful of threats in the first 10 minutes. Tan headed an Adu cross wide. Later Adu had Tampa Bay's best look from a free kick but his 25-yard effort curled several feet to the right.
New York, Minnesota and Ottawa would seem to have the first three playoff spots well in hand, with a nine-point gap to fourth. Edmonton has caught up to the Rowdies thanks in part to a pair of head-to-head victories.