A quiet first half and some questionable refereeing gave way to a wild second half full of goals, cards, ejections, and projectiles from the stands as the Cosmos drew 2-2 with the Rowdies. The point earned is the first earned on the road outside of Miami, but drops the Cosmos to second in the fall and combined standings due to goal differential.
The Cosmos went with a 4-2-3-1, pulling Brian Holt back on to start in net. David Ochieng also got the start at center back, David Diosa earned himself a spot on the left wing, while Yasmani Duk got the nod up top, moving Lucky Mkosana back to the right side of the midfield.
The Rowdies did a good job of keeping the Cosmos contained to their own half for most of the first, constantly threatening but missing out on the final ball. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens was rarely put to test, but did well in denying Juan Arango a free kick goal. The inconsistent refereeing, however, led to some heated debate from the Rowdies players and bench especially after two players received cards and shouts for a penalty kick went unheeded in the 43rd when Ayoze went down on top of Martin Vingaard in the box.
The second half resumed with Keith Savage coming close to giving the home side a lead in the fiftieth minute, but it was New York who would strike first.
Danny Szetela earned a free kick outside the right side of the Rowdies box and Juan Arango buried it into the left side in the 53rd. Pickens never even moved, seeing it too late.
The game’s momentum went even further against the Rowdies in the following minutes as Georgi Hristov received a yellow for dissent in the moments after the goal and Rowdies assistant coach Raoul Voss was ejected minutes later. The worst was yet to come for Tampa Bay.
In the 57th minute, Hristov slipped a ball towards Joe Cole, making a run into the box. Tripped by Adam Moffat, he fell, making contact on the ball with his arm, before it bounced off another player or two and into the net. A handball was called on the play and the Rowdies were denied their equalizer.
The crowd was quick to respond as plastic bottles and mini-soccer balls were flung onto the field in protest. The crowd were not the only ones to manifest their displeasure as right back Darnell King also earned a card for his words moments later.
The outcome seemed just about set in the 67th as Lucky Mkosana fed a ball to Yasmani Duk in the box who settled it with a deft touch before burning one between the legs of Pickens for his second goal of the season in just his second start, both of them coming against the Rowdies.
The Cosmos subbed in Ruben Bover in for Duk minutes later as the Rowdies continued to press. Danny Szetela made the defelction on a Mkandawire shot that was headed into the net, preserving the shutout. Jairo Arrieta subbed in for a rattled David Diosa in the 82nd.
A moment of chaos got the Rowdies on the board in the 85th. Mkandawire was on the attack again, making his way around Ochieng and firing a shot off a Holt. The rebound caromed off Ochieng’s leg and back towards an empty part of the net where Keith Savage was ready to finish it. Ayoze beat him to the ball, but never properly got around him and wound up putting the ball into his own net.
The Cosmos made a final defensive substitution in the 89th, bringing on Jimmy Ockford for Lucky Mkosana. Unfortunately for them, the substitution would not work.
In the fifth minute of stoppage, Ockford drew a yellow card and gave up a penalty kick when he wrapped his arms around Tommy Heinemann in the box and the forward went down. Cole was there to convert it and in the final seconds of the match, an away win again escaped the Cosmos.
The draw was the first for the Cosmos this year. They now head north to Edmonton and a date with the Eddies to close out their road trip on Wednesday.