ST. PETERSBURG — Any thoughts Tampa Bay would be intimidated facing Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night were erased when the Rowdies hit the crossbar twice within the first six minutes.
Had either shot — both of which beat Rapids goalkeeper Steward Ceus — dropped a few inches lower, the third-round match in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup might have had a different outcome.
Instead, the Rowdies were forced to wonder what could have been after their 3-1 loss to Colorado in front of 3,086 spectators at Al Lang Field.
The Rapids advance to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup; the loss eliminates the Rowdies from the competition.
"All in all I think they put a good shift in as a team," Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. "We're very disappointed to have conceded three and to have been knocked out, of course we are. But I think most of the fans who came here should have been quite happy with the level of performance from the players."
The Rowdies nearly caught the Rapids off guard in the first minute when Mike Ambersley's running, glancing header clanged off the crossbar. Luke Mulholland hit the crossbar in the sixth minute on a free kick from 25 yards.
"I honestly thought it was going in," Mulholland said. "… I was devastated when it hit (the crossbar)."
Colorado made the Rowdies pay for their missed opportunities. The Rapids were awarded a penalty kick when the Rowdies' Draymond Washington slid to deflect a shot headed for the open goal and the side referee ruled the ball hit Washington's hand.
Edu converted the penalty kick in the 17th minute. The goal was the first conceded in the first half by the Rowdies all season.
"For the linesman to give it, I think, is very difficult for me personally because he hasn't got a great angle, he's a long way away," Hill said. "… Apparently the ball hit Draymond and rolled up his leg and then hit his arm. So as far as I'm concerned, there's no intention. I always believed that handball was intention to handle it."
Andre Akpan sent a well-struck, left-footed shot past Tampa Bay goalkeeper Jeff Attinella in the 33rd minute for a 2-0 lead.
Ambersley and Daniel Antoniuk forced diving stops from Ceus (six saves) within the first five minutes of the second half. Colorado's Kamani Hill scored on a feed from Akpan in stoppage time to put Colorado ahead 3-0. The Rowdies' Matt Clare scored moments before the full-time whistle.
"We're very happy with the result," Colorado coach Oscar Pareja said. "I think we played against a very good team. I think Ricky's doing a great job with that team playing the way they play. It was a very difficult opponent."
Note: Team captain Frankie Sanfilippo was named North American Soccer League Defensive Player of the Week. He helped Tampa Bay to its second shutout Friday in a 0-0 tie against Minnesota.