BALTIMORE — The new Tampa Bay Rowdies launched their inaugural season in the North American Soccer League with a victory Friday night, winning 1-0 at Crystal Palace Baltimore.
In the opener for both teams, the hosts failed to cash in on a handful of prime scoring chances, allowing the game's only goal in the 66th minute to Aaron King before an announced crowd of 1,029.
Crystal Palace Baltimore had one flaw that remained the same from a year ago — not enough scoring.
"I think we had three times as many real goal-scoring opportunities," Baltimore coach Jim Cherneski said. "The good news is that … the performance will show that over the long haul. Those shots are in the bank. Even though we lost, the performance was okay."
The teams play in the newly formed North American Soccer League of the U.S. Soccer Federation Division II — the highest level of pro soccer in North America outside of Major League Soccer alongside teams from the United Soccer League.
The past three years, the Baltimore team, then known as Crystal Palace USA, played in the third tier of U.S. professional soccer.
The Rowdies, using the name of the old team that played in the original NASL in the 1970s and '80s, were 2-0-3 in the preseason.
Baltimore returned about half of its players from a year ago, when it averaged less than a goal per game and suffered through its first losing season.
It didn't take long for some of those same frustrations to resurface, when just 1:36 into the game, forward Randi Patterson got a clear shot on a breakaway but rolled it inches wide right.
Then about six minutes before halftime, midfielder Kenold Versailles put a header wide right off a restart.
The near-misses continued for Baltimore in the second half when in the 54th minute, midfielder Mathew Mbuta hit the far post on a hard liner after a throw-in.
The series of misses opened the door for the Rowdies, who took the lead when King dribbled in from just inside midfield and fired a ground ball to the right of outstretched goalkeeper Evan Bush.