ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies fell behind in the sixth minute of Saturday night's match against Rochester, and with leading scorer Georgi Hristov serving a one-game suspension due to yellow card accumulation, things didn't look good for them in the early going.
But Joe Cole was in the right place at the right time to swing the momentum back to them.
Dribbling down the left sideline, Marcel Schafer sent a cross into the box, and Cole got a foot on the ball to tap it in to tie the score in the 19th minute.
The rest of the match was a defensive battle, and neither team scored again, settling for a 1-1 tie at Al Lang Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 6,026.
"We just didn't have enough," Cole said. "We didn't take our chances right at the end. We've got to work on that. This is not something new we're facing. We need to be better at breaking teams down."
Rochester, which entered the game 3-0 all time against Tampa Bay, beat the Rowdies 1-0 May 24, and early in Saturday's game, it appeared the Rhinos would continue that success.
In the sixth minute, Rochester's Jochen Graf took advantage of a Rowdies defensive miscue, sending the ball over goalkeeper Matt Pickens' head for a 1-0 lead as Tampa Bay defender Neill Collins tried to clear it.
"We made a bad mistake," coach Stuart Campbell said. "That happens. The guys responded."
After Cole evened the score, the Rowdies began to take charge. At the half, Tampa Bay (6-3-5) had the advantage in shots (7-5) and corner kicks (4-1), and it had dominated in time of possession.
"In the first half, I thought we were excellent," Campbell said. "When we play as well as that in the first half, we have to go on and win the game. We have to go and put the game to bed."
In the 61st minute, Cole almost scored again, but the shot was just inches wide. Moments later, Graf almost did the same for Rochester, taking a precise pass into a one-on-one with Pickens, who dove just in time to make the stop.
Pickens continued to be challenged as the second half wore on, and he made another stop in the 83rd minute on a Rochester free kick.