When FC Tampa Bay's schedule was released, the prospect of playing five of its first six games at Al Lang Field was a cause for excitement. It offered the perfect opportunity to start the season with momentum.
But following Wednesday's 1-1 draw with FC Edmonton, in which FC Tampa Bay allowed the tying goal in the final moments of extra time, the club must hope its fortunes improve on the road.
FC Tampa Bay (1-2-3) takes to the road with just six points and a five-game winless streak.
"We brought it on ourselves," FC Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill said. "I felt we played poorly as a team overall and made elementary mistakes at certain times, which brought unnecessary pressure on ourselves. I don't have any grumble with the actual score because I don't think we deserved any more than that."
At the half, Hill chastised his team for sloppy play, saying it was the poorest 45 minutes of the season.
"I'm glad the camera wasn't on in the dressing room at halftime and you weren't in there," Hill told reporters after the game, "because you'd have a better story to tell - and justifiably so. It was not acceptable."
His squad answered in front of an announced crowd of 1,775 with a Chad Burt score in the 51st minute. But it allowed an equalizer in the final seconds of the four-minute injury time.
Rookie goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, a Countryside High and USF alum, was moments away from his first win, making seven saves on 22 shots. But a free kick deflected in the box to Chris Kooy, who put a shot from 2 yards inside the far post to keep first-year Edmonton (3-0-3) unbeaten.
"Throughout the season, I think our story's been that we've played well but we've been unlucky," Attinella said. "I think we have to start taking it the other way. We didn't play well enough to win. The last minute of the game, they can't score no matter what the situation is. We played well for 93 minutes, but the 94th killed us."
Burt, a Northeast High grad, scored on a left-footed shot off a centering header from Pascal Millien.
FC Tampa Bay now plays three of its next four on the road.
"We're almost a quarter of the way through the season now," Burt said. "Sports is about winning, and we have to win."
Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at email@example.com.