TAMPA — From the beginning, the odds were stacked against Baltimore.
In addition to entering Friday's game against the Rowdies in last place in the USSF Division 2 standings, Baltimore brought only 11 players because of injuries and suspensions. Even coach Jim Cherneski was forced to start as a midfielder.
The Rowdies took advantage in the last game of their inaugural season, scoring four goals in the first 30 minutes en route to a 6-3 win at Steinbrenner Field in front of an announced crowd of 4,348.
"Both teams weren't playing for the postseason, so it was kind of a letdown there," said interim coach Perry Van Der Beck, a member of the original Rowdies of the 1970s who had his jersey retired at halftime. "But it was the last game … and we wanted the players to obviously give it their best, so I think we put on quite a show."
The Rowdies took a 1-0 lead as midfielder Chad Burt scored from 35 yards just three minutes in.
Tampa Bay made it 2-0 in the 12th minute when Pascal Millien slid a ball through to Aaron King, who punched it in. Midfielder Mozzi Gyorio added two goals before halftime.
Baltimore (6-18-6, 24 points) answered with three goals — two from Cherneski. But King added a second goal, and Ricardo Sanchez converted a penalty kick in the 70th minute.
Van Der Beck said the Rowdies (7-12-11, 32 points) will meet next week with players who have options on contracts. The search will continue for a new head coach to replace Paul Dalglish, who was fired after failing to reach the postseason.
King, who finished with a team-leading 12 goals, said he's already looking ahead.
"I wish we were going to the postseason, so next year I'm going to be concentrating on scoring really big goals when I'm called upon," he said.