ST. PETERSBURG — If the first meeting is any indication, the second era of the Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Cosmos rivalry may be as impassioned as the first. Meeting for the first time in nearly three decades and playing in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 7,032 — the franchise’s highest attendance in three seasons at Al Lang Stadium — the Rowdies and Cosmos played to a 0-0 draw, with each team scoring an apparent second-half goal, only for it to be waved off. The Cosmos, who debuted last week in a 2-1 win against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, controlled much of the first 45 minutes as the Rowdies struggled to find their rhythm. Spurred on by a loud crowd, the Rowdies found their way and produced a dramatic second half with plenty of scoring chances.
The Cosmos’ clearest chance came in the 77th minute, when a scramble in front of the box ended with Tampa Bay goalkeeper Diego Restrepo diving to his knees to save a shot from point-blank range. “There was a moment right after that save that the crowd went nuts,” Restrepo said. “I think that lifted us. It gave us a second wind, because we were getting attacked for the last 20 minutes.” Two minutes later, new Rowdies striker Etienne Barbara nearly capitalized on the boost with a goal low and hard past the Cosmos’ Kyle Reynish, but the linesman raised to flag, indicating Barbara was offsides. In the 88th minute, New York scored a goal of its own, but again, it was called off due to offsides, sealing a 0-0 draw. Rowdies midfielder Luke Mulholland was sent off for receiving a second yellow card in the 90th minute.