Rowdies rally, top Stars in PKs to win NASL title

Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Rowdies/Matt May

Down two goals on aggregate, the Tampa Bay Rowdies were in need of a big performance in order to pull themselves back into the NASL Championship Series.

They got just that and more en route to pulling off a dramatic and entertaining penalty shootout victory that gave them their first NASL title.

The 10-man Rowdies defeated Minnesota Stars FC, 3-2, on penalty kicks after claiming a 3-1 win in the second leg of the series in a game played in front of a crowd of 6,208 at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night. The hosts scored late in regulation to pull level on aggregate at 3-3 and they went down a man just before the 30-minute extra time, but they fought through that and forced a shootout against the defending champion Stars.

There, Tampa Bay goalkeeper Jeff Attinella was the hero. Attinella made three saves in the shootout, stopping Devin Del Do, Kyle Altman and Lucas Rodriguez to lift the Rowdies to a win.

The hosts, who were down 2-0 on aggregate after losing to sixth-seeded Minnesota in the first leg last weekend, began their comeback when Carl Cort netted in the 25th minute. Keith Savage then pulled Tampa Bay level with a goal six minutes after halftime.

Unfortunately for the Rowdies, the joy of clawing back into the championship series was short-lived. The Stars jumped out ahead on aggregate again less than a minute after Savage’s goal, with Lucas Rodriguez finding the back of the net to give Minnesota a 3-2 lead on aggregate.

In desperate search for another equalizer, Tampa avoided a loss when substitute Daniel Antoniuk beat Stars goalkeeper Matthew VanOekel four minutes from the death.

Shortly thereafter, the Rowdies went down a man when Shane Hill was sent off. But that did not come back to haunt the hosts, as they got through extra time to force the penalty shootout that ended with them on top.

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What do you think of the Rowdies winning the NASL Championship Series? Surprised by the Stars’ inability to seal the deal? Impressed with the quality of the game and how entertaining and dramatic it turned out to be?

Share your thoughts below.

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14 Responses to Rowdies rally, top Stars in PKs to win NASL title

  1. Matt C in Tampa says:

    Wasn’t BPL or even MLS, the match was epic for those of us in attendance. Great game. Even the goal by NS’s was excellent and a laser.

    The two-legged-whoever-scores-the-most-goals made for a very interesting evening.

    The Rowdies would not be denied. Jeff “Jeffe” Attinella was superb. Sadly, i suspect he’ll be on someone’s MLS roster next year. He’s proven this year that he can play at this level and the next.

    Aside from “Jeffe”, Luke Mullholland was probably the MOTM.

    Sold out Al Lang stadium was in full force. And i’ll give credit to the NS fans who made a measurable apperance.

    Well done Rowdies!!

    • AzTeXan says:

      I turned on the stream for the end of extra time and the shootout. The main thing I took away was how out of shape Minnesota’s keeper looked. He looked like a fat bear getting ready to hibernate for the winter.

  2. Josh says:

    So NASL doesn’t double away goals for aggregate ties?

  3. lprevolution says:

    It’s such a shame that I can’t find highlights of the game. It was an awesome evening at Al Lang Stadium. Thank you Ralph’s Mob!

  4. Minnesota Nice FC says:

    Congratulations to the Rowdies and to Ralph’s Mob. What an epic game. Ultimately heartbreaking, but you can’t argue with Attinella getting 3 saves.
    Also, you can call Van Oekel a fat bear getting ready for winter, but that fat bear is a mean motherf*cker in goal.

  5. Matt C in Sarasota says:

    It was an amazing game to watch because the stakes were clear: the Rowdies HAD to score at least two to get even, and both teams gave everything they had for 120 minutes. I’ll never forget the noise that started with the first penalty and exploded on Attinella’s last save. He tweeted earlier in the week that he wanted to do his part, and he surely did.

    Props to the Dark Clouds that made the trip – I didn’t make it to every home game this year, but I don’t remember a larger group of away fans. Hope things work out off the field for you guys.

    CONGRATS ROWDIES!!

  6. Ivan says:

    Great game, great advert for NASL and football. Once again, Ralph’s Mob was huge: they never quit.

    Hopefully the win will increase the Rowdies’ visibility in the community. They need more than 3,500 diehards to succeed, long term.

    Hopefully Cosmos will put a competitive team next season.

    Credit to the Stars and their travelling supporters as well. Well done, guys, and I hope you are back next season!

    Jeff Attinella can play in almost every major league in Europe. I will be surprised if he is back with the team next season. The kid is that good!

    COYR!

  7. Fuggle says:

    It was a terrific game to watch in person – I’m glad I traveled, even without the result we wanted. The folks we met from Ralph’s Mob were all really good guys – congratulations, and thanks for the kind words regarding our off-field situation. Hope to see you next year.

  8. Cesar says:

    This was by far, the best game in the 2012 season. The ROWDIES lost & gain a “tie” twice, managed to survive 30+ minutes down one man & pulled it off on penalty kicks…wow!!! The NASL should be followed by more people. It’s entertaining, it’s affordable, you can actually have a good chance of meeting many players, etc.

  9. Antonio says:

    Crazy, exciting game! I was there. I witnesses history!!! The Rowdies won it on their inaugural season back in 1975 and they win it again on their revived-inaugural name acquisition season! Happy to be a fan in Tampa Bay, happy to see the fans in the area support. Tampa Bay is no longer in a drought of a major Sports Championship. proud to be a Rowdie!!! The NASL is so much fun!!!

  10. Jim M says:

    What a fantastic game!! Glad to see the stadium packed and the fan support when it counted most. Both sets of fans were well behaved and the game was called fairly. I could not have scripted greater drama for this final game! It was a great evening to be a Rowdies fan!

    This is such a great group of players. They hang out after every game to sign autographs, they have a smile and a high five for every kid, big and small, that comes down to the rail after the games. I don’t know if you can say that any team “deserves” a championship, but these guys busted their tails and fought through adversity all year to win when it counted. What a kick in the grass!