MIAMI - The Tampa Bay Rowdies scored two unanswered goals to earn a 2-2 draw against Miami at Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium Friday night. Miami got on the board early with a pair of goals by forwards Jaime Chavez and Kwadwo Poku, but the Rowdies battled back to earn a draw thanks to goals by forward Georgi Hristov and midfielder Juan Guerra.
With the draw, the Rowdies are now tied for fourth place alongside Minnesota and Rayo OKC, with just three games left in the season. The Rowdies also claimed the 2016 Coastal Cup, winning it for the first time since 2013.
"I'm very pleased with our performance in the second half," head coach Stuart Campbell said. "It was a tough start to the game but credit to our guys for putting in a shift and finding the equalizer.
“With the final playoff spot up for grabs, this point was very important for us."
Chavez's strike put the home team up 1-0 in the 16th minute. A long ball from midfielder Blake Smith was met by a volley by Chavez, leaving Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens with no chance of making the save.
Miami doubled the lead in the 21st minute, with Chavez once again playing a role in the goal. He found a wide open Poku inside the box, who then slid it past Pickens.
The Rowdies cut the lead in 27th minute after midfielder Eric Avila placed a perfect cross into the box finding Hristov. The Bulgarian forward placed his header at the far post out of the reach of goalkeeper Daniel Vega.
The Rowdies dominated most of the second half, creating several chances to tie the match up.
Tampa Bay's effort would pay off in the 66th minute, when Guerra smashed in a shot from the top of the 18-yard box. Guerra's first goal of the season tied the match, with midfielder Joe Cole getting the assist.
"It was great to get the equalizer tonight since I think we played very well after they gained a two-goal lead," Guerra said. "The team is working hard to get into the playoffs and I think it showed tonight with our effort. Miami is a good team, but we were able to limit their chances, especially in the second half."
With the score level at 2-2, the Rowdies continued to press for the game-winner, but it was the Miami FC that had the last chance of the match. After a long ball across the Rowdies' box, Borrajo found a wide open Bernstein, but the defender's header went straight to Pickens.
(© 2017 WTSP)