ST. PETERSBURG — Perhaps no match can sum up the Tampa Bay Rowdies' futility against the Carolina RailHawks more than the last time the teams were on the field together.
During that mid June Spring Season fixture, the Rowdies, reduced to 10 men after D Andres Arango was redcarded in the 37th minute, struck late with an 87th-minute goal from F Devin Del Do to go up 1-0 and seemingly steal three points in Carolina.
But Del Do's score awakened the RailHawks. Cesar Elizondo headed in the equalizer in the 92nd minute, and Ty Shipalane sent the Rowdies home empty-handed after his deflection-aided goal in the 94th.
"Up until we scored (Carolina) had run out of ideas to a degree," Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. "We were very comfortable and, ultimately, we came away with nothing."
Since the team's re-emergence in 2010, Tampa Bay has had the least success against Carolina than any other NASL team.
In 12 regular-season meetings, the Rowdies have won once, the first time the teams played in that inaugural season. Carolina has defeated the Rowdies six times.
Out of a possible 36 points, the Rowdies have taken eight from the RailHawks.
"Our strength, our possession on the ball, is also our weakness," Rowdies M Raphael Cox said. "When we lose possession of the ball and Carolina catches us on the counterattack, that's when they're the most dangerous. … I would say they're the best on the counter in the league. They have a very dangerous attacking squad, a lot of speed, a lot of width and they just attack from there."
The Rowdies will have to find a formula to unlock Carolina tonight at Al Lang Stadium if they wish to defend their NASL title at the Soccer Bowl on Nov. 9 in Atlanta. A win would bring the team level on points with the league-leading RailHawks heading into next Saturday's match in Carolina.
"If Carolina takes three points from us, then we're now relying on other people to help us for the remainder of the year because they're six points clear of us. Not that it's insurmountable, but it doesn't help," Hill said. "So we need to make sure we take three from them, get on level the same points as them and then we go to their place, where we have everything to play for again and hopefully have a good showing in Carolina."
Rowdies add forward: The Rowdies picked up an addition Monday, acquiring 25-year-old F Luckymore "Lucky" Mkosana on loan from the USL PRO's Harrisburg City Islanders for the remainder of the Fall Season.
The Zimbabwe native scored 20 goals in 41 games through two full seasons for Harrisburg. He'll be available tonight although is unlikely to play because of his limited practice time.
"He's just come off the back end of a full season," Hill said. "He'll probably be (on the bench) just in case. It'll be a judgment call for me."