ST. PETERSBURG — Heading into their lone bye week of the NASL spring season, the Tampa Bay Rowdies needed a victory against Edmonton to keep pace with the rest of the teams atop the league standings.
Plus, a win would give the Rowdies their first victory in three tries at Al Lang Stadium, where the team enjoyed a substantial homefield advantage with an 8-1-7 record during their 2012 championship run.
In 2013, that magic has yet to resurface.
Tampa Bay scored the opening goal in the 16th minute on a converted penalty kick but failed again to hold a lead at home, tying 1-1 in front of 3,412.
"I asked the team to develop a ruthless streak about three games ago, and what I meant by that was when teams come here, have that belief that they're not going to get anything from this game, as we did the back end of last year toward the end of our championship run … that aura of coming here that made teams uncomfortable," Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. "Tonight I thought we started in that vein, but we have to maintain that tempo for longer periods."
Tampa Bay remained tied for first with eight points with Carolina and Minnesota, who tied 2-2 Saturday.
The Rowdies (2-1-2) started quickly by keeping possession in Edmonton's half of the field and were rewarded in the 15th minute when Luke Mulholland was brought down in the box by goalkeeper Lance Parker.
Georgi Hristov converted the penalty kick, his second of the season, in the 16th minute.
But for the second straight home game, the Rowdies couldn't hold the advantage. Edmonton (1-2-2) tied it in the 35th minute after Daryl Fordyce sent a cross to the back post for Shaun Saiko, who dribbled close to the goal inside the 6-yard box and shot between the legs of goalkeeper Diego Restrepo.
"That kind of knocked us back because we were dominant up to that point," Hill said.
The Rowdies fought in the second half but couldn't produce enough imagination near the goal to score the winner. Second-half substitute Carl Cort, in his first game this season after sitting out the first four with a slightly torn calf, came closest after receiving a pass on the back post from Andres Arango. Cort couldn't settle the ball in time to prevent a defender from deflecting his shot away.
"I think to a sense, especially in the final third, just that quality wasn't there," Cort said.
Edmonton nearly got all three points in the 89th minute when Restrepo was pulled out of goal and a bouncing ball made its way toward the Rowdies' open net, but Arango cleared it off the line.
"It was kind of chaotic in there, balls are bouncing, deflections," said Rowdies defender Jordan Gafa, who made his first professional start. "Luckily it didn't go in the goal."