ST. PETERSBURG — Sometimes there are ties that feel more like a loss. And then there are ties like Saturday night's 2-2 match between the Rowdies and New York Cosmos.
For the Rowdies, it very much felt like a win.
Trailing 2-0 late, Tampa Bay rallied to tie its nemesis thanks to an own goal in the 84th minute and a Joe Cole penalty kick in the sixth minute of extra time in a game marred by eight yellow cards.
"I thought it was disgusting,'' Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell said. "I thought it was the worst officiated game I've ever seen. Some of those calls were horrible decisions.''
The announced crowd of 6,301 at Al Lang Stadium had to wait until the second half for the offense.
"Whenever these teams get together, there is going to be fireworks,'' Campbell said.
In the 50th minute, Tampa Bay's Keith Savage managed to work his way through defenders and get off a shot from about 5 yards, but his left-footer just missed wide right.
Then things started to fall apart for the Rowdies (5-3-6 overall, 1-1-2 in the fall season).
After a disputed penalty in the 53rd minute, the Cosmos (9-5-1, 3-1-1) had a free kick 20 yards from the goal. Juan Arango's left-footer was perfectly placed into the upper left corner to make it 1-0.
It appeared the Rowdies tied it in the 57th minute. But as the ball rolled across the goal line, the side referee raised his flag for a handball, nullifying the goal. That sent players and fans into an uproar.
In the 67th minute, New York made it 2-0 when Lucky Mkosana crossed to Yasmani Duk 5 yards from goal. Duk was able to shed a defender and get off a shot past diving goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
The Rowdies continued to pressure and finally broke through in the 84th minute. Tamika Mkandawire rocketed a shot that bounced off Cosmos keeper Brian Holt. Savage was there for the putback, which also went off a New York defender and into the open goal.
Then in extra time, with the Rowdies continuing to play in front of the Cosmos net, Tommy Heinemann was taken down in the box, which resulted in a penalty kick. Cole converted the kick and the final whistle blew soon after.
"There were probably three or four penalties that should've been given before that,'' Cole said. "We're not getting the breaks, and I don't know why. But we got the call and I was able to make it.
"I thought we dominated and should've won it.''
That was the sentiment of most of the Rowdies, especially Campbell. He believes his squad should have won but said the referees worked against them.