There is an old saying in sports about how you should respect your opponents…..but don’t respect them too much.
The Atlanta Silverbacks may have finished first in the spring half of the North American Soccer League Season, but didn’t get a lot of respect from Tampa Bay in their last outing.
The Rowdies lead the fall half of the NASL regular season, now on a 10-game unbeaten streak. Their last win came 3-1 over the Silverbacks at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg.
Two goals from Georgi Hristove and one from midfielder Shane Hill sealed the deal for Tampa Bay.
“I am very satisfied with the result as it extends our streak to 10 matches,” said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. “We had to be resilient late in the game when Atlanta threw everything at us.”
The Rowdies took a 3-0 lead deep into the game, but a 75th minute score by Horace James ruined a shutout for goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, who had saved a penalty kick by Ruben Luna in the first half.
“Despite their goal, I am happy that we were able to get another win at home,” said the former Virginia Cavalier. “Obviously, I am delighted with my save on the penalty kick, but it makes it even better when it helps the team win.”
The win over Atlanta sets up a meeting with the New York Cosmos in a battle for first place in the league standings. Earlier the two teams played in St. Peterburg and drew 0-0.
Since then the Cosmos, who only entered the league in the second half of the season, have posted a 4-1-3 record and moved into first place
The Cosmos are coming off a 2-0 win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, with both goals being scored by Venezuelan forward Diomar Diaz. That earned him the NASL Player of the Week honor.
New York has a potent offensive punch, and has scored 18 goals in the fall half of the season, most among the league’s eight teams.
A meeting between the Cosmos and the Rowdies cojures up memories of meetings between teams that carried those names in the original NASL of the 1970s, when both were marquee franchises.
The Carolina RailHawks, Minnesota United FC and Fort Lauderdale are tied for third in the league standings, all just four points behind the Rowdies. The Silverbacks are #6 with 10 points, followed by FC Edmonton and San Antonio.
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