ST. PETERSBURG — Since a seven-goal outburst at San Antonio to open the NASL fall season, the Rowdies have found scoring an almost impossible proposition.
Saturday against FC Edmonton, the Rowdies' offensive punch, again, was noticeably lacking. Luke Mulholland marked his return after missing one match because of a red-card suspension with his sixth goal of the season.
The rest of Tampa Bay's attack was absent, however, in a 1-1 draw with 3,118 looking on from Al Lang Stadium.
In their past three matches, the Rowdies have just two goals.
"I think goals are like London buses," Mulholland said. "You wait forever for one to come and then they all come at once."
Mulholland, playing forward because of an injury to Carl Cort, gave the Rowdies (1-0-3, six points) a first-half lead in the 38th minute. The Rowdies pressured Edmonton high up the field and were rewarded when Stuart Campbell intercepted a pass near the 18-yard box. Campbell lifted a centering pass into the box for Mulholland, who had his first shot from 6 yards blocked by goalkeeper Lance Parker before pushing the rebound into the goal.
Mulholland almost had his second score in as many minutes after Tampa Bay forced another deep turnover. He beat Parker and midfielder Chris Nurse to a ball in the box and tried to chip a shot over the keeper. Nurse raced back toward his goal and swept the shot away before it reached the goal line, then crashed into the right upright with his follow through.
Edmonton (1-1-2, five points) tied it right before halftime, against the run of play. A loose ball in the box bounced around before finding Nurse on the edge of the 18. Nurse ripped a low, right-footed shot that eluded the crowd of bodies and tucked inside the far post, kissing the upright on its way in. At the time, the Rowdies were playing with 10 men because defender Frankie Sanfilippo had left temporarily with an injury.
"The real sucker punch was not just the goal that we conceded — pretty much the last kick of the first half — but the manner that we conceded it," Campbell said. "We felt we could have done quite a lot to avert that. … It took the wind out of our sails a little bit."
Tampa Bay hasn't lost to Edmonton in nine matches and is unbeaten in its past six.
"(The unbeaten streak) is a great feat for anyone at any time, but at the same time we want victories," Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said.