The inability to add to a 1-0 lead against the USL Championship’s worst defensive team cost the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wednesday night, as FC Tulsa’s Rodrigo da Costa’s goal in the 83rd minute led to a 1-1 draw at OneOK Field.
The visiting Rowdies (5-3-5, 20 points) very nearly made it a walkoff victory, but Lucky Mkosana’s header into a vacated net clanked off the right post and Tulsa escaped with its first draw of the season.
“Our performance deserved more than one goal, and our defensive performance probably deserved a clean sheet. We really should be celebrating a victory,” said Rowdies coach Neill Collins. “But we’re not, because we didn’t take advantage of our great opportunities.”
Tulsa took advantage of its lone shot on target, while the Rowdies had nine on frame among their 17 shots.
Three hit the post, including one in the game-ending sequence. Conner Antley, who returned from a three-game injury absence, launched a long throw that newcomer Thomas Vancaeyezeele headed backward toward the right post. Mkosana was in front of the defender and had a wide-open right side but his header was not strong enough and drifted off the post.
The final whistle blew on the ensuing goal kick.
“Did everything right. Lucky just didn’t quite manage to get enough on it,” Collins said. “I think the response to (giving up) the goal was excellent. We looked like we were going to go on and win the game. Lot of frustration, but trying to keep it in perspective.”
Forward Kyle Greig earlier rang one off the left post, attempting to make it a 2-0 on a rebound of a Jake LaCava’s shot in the 58th minute. The Rowdies’ lone goal actually came off a rebound of another post-bound shot, with Laurence Wyke converting his first of the year in the 17th minute.
Tulsa entered having given up 28 goals in 12 games and made a goalkeeper switch, giving Austin Wormell his first action of the year. Wormell did start all but one contest for Tulsa last season with Sean Lewis out due to injury.
The 23-year-old came up big on several occasions, most notably in first-half stoppage time on a dynamite volley attempt by Tampa Bay’s Sebastian Dalgaard. Wormell also did well on a low line drive by Leo Fernandes with about a half hour remaining.
That allowed Tulsa (4-8-1) to hang around and eventually tie when Marlon Ramirez chested a pass down to Rodrigo da Costa, who pounded Tulsa’s first shot on goal of the night past CJ Cochran. Da Costa nearly gave the hosts a 2-1 lead minutes later but chipped a close-range effort over the goal.
Later on the Rowdies looked like they would continue Tulsa’s drawless trend. Sebastian Guenzatti, who came on in the 70th minute during a pair of offensive-minded substitutions, was ready to shoot after a good pass from Jake Areman but Tulsa defender Johnny Fenwick tackled the ball away at the last moment.
Acquired last week from Birmingham, Vancaeyezeele ended up being the only one of Tampa Bay’s starting three defensemen to finish. Jordan Scarlett took a knock on his eye early, and along with the swelling was the recipient of a retroactive yellow card — his tackle was originally ruled clean but after Tulsa lobbied for a call, the head official consulted with his assistant.
“Jordan’s a warrior, he wanted to continue. But his eye was swelling up badly, and a couple of the (Tulsa) antics were going to make it difficult for him, picking up the yellow card, to stay on the field,” Collins said. Fellow defender Aaron Guillen also was removed late after appearing to be suffering from leg cramps.
Though they’ll be disappointed the Rowdies can’t afford to mope. A big chance to gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings awaits Saturday as leader Louisville (27 points) comes to Al Lang Stadium for a 7:30 kickoff.