ST. PETERSBURG — The hoopla surrounding the resumption of the Rowdies' rivalry with the New York Cosmos was as palpable as the sweat-inducing humidity that hung over Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night.
A sellout and stadium-record 7,032 watched the two historic NASL teams play for the first time since 1984.
At halftime, the Rowdies retired the No. 6 worn by defender Mike Connell, a fixture in so many Rowdies-Cosmos matchups during his nine seasons with Tampa Bay.
Rowdies fans threw green and yellow streamers toward the field after opening introductions. They held No. 6 cardboard cutouts during the sixth minute of the game for Connell.
The only thing missing from the party was a goal.
The Rowdies and Cosmos each had one disallowed for offside in playing to a 0-0 tie.
"It was an exciting game … even without the actual goals to prove it," Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said.
Tampa Bay goalkeeper Diego Restrepo recorded his fourth shutout of the year (all competitions). His best save came in the 77th minute after a scramble saw the ball land at the feet of defender Hunter Gorskie 6 yards from the goal. He ripped a shot, but Restrepo kept his body low and in front of the ball, deflecting it with his leg before corralling the rebound.
"Thankfully, I was able to get back and track it on my line," Restrepo said. "And I just tried to read it and get across as fast as I can and save it with my leg."
Two minutes later, the Rowdies (1-0-1, four points) looked to have broken through when midfielder Keith Savage led a break down the middle of the field and hit newcomer Etienne Barbara on the left wing. The forward slipped a shot inside the far post, but the goal was waved off.
"There were probably six times throughout the game where we managed to string a few passes, and we looked all right on those occasions," Hill said. "Outside of that, I felt we went away a little bit from our game plan."
The Cosmos (1-0-1, four points) hit two posts in a span of a few seconds during the 20th minute and saw a goal called back in the 88th.
"Tampa made it very difficult for us," Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said. "I think it was a great game, a lot of things in the game, exciting for the fans to have come and watch. I think we created a few more chances. We didn't have the luck."
Rowdies midfielder Luke Mulholland received his second yellow card of the game during second-half stoppage time and was ejected. As a result, he will sit out Aug. 17 at Minnesota.