The NASL Champions Tampa Bay Rowdies host the Carolina RailHawks in St. Petersburg, Florida on Opening Kick 2013. Last season, the Rowdies earned a spot in the Championship Series at the expense of the RailHawks, winning 5-4 on aggregate over the two-legged series.
Carolina hosted the first leg at WakeMed Soccer Park, but it was the visitors who took the lead. Brian Shriver equalized from the penalty spot for the hosts, but substitutes Evans Frimpong and Daniel Antoniuk combined to give the Rowdies a one-goal advantage heading into the second leg.
The second leg produced one of the most back-and-forth contests of the season. On loan Orlando City striker Matt Luzunaris gave Carolina an early lead before the electric Ty Shipalane struck his third goal of the playoffs, turning the tie upside-down 3-2 in favor of Carolina. Shane Hill tucked away a penalty to level the aggregate at three goals apiece heading into the half.
Instrumental attacker Luke Mulholland carried the Rowdies momentum into the second half, setting up Mike Ambersely to give the Rowdies the series lead, before extending it further after scoring one himself.
But the deficit was once again reduced to one when RailHawks leading scorer Nick Zimmerman tucked away a penalty kick to pull his side back into the game and set up a nervous finish. Despite throwing everything forward, Carolina was ultimately unable to find the crucial goal, and the match ended 3-3 with the RailHawks crashing out on aggregate.
Despite losing to the Rowdies in the playoffs, the RailHawks maintain an impressive unbeaten streak against Tampa Bay. Since the NASLs inception in 2011, Carolina has not lost a regular season match to Tampa Bay in eight meetings.
In 2011, Carolina took twelve points of Tampa Bay by winning all four regular season matches. Last season, all four games failed to produce a winner.
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|New York Cosmos||14||9||4||1||10||31|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||14||5||5||4||3||20|
|Minnesota United FC||14||6||2||6||2||20|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||14||5||3||6||-2||18|
|San Antonio Scorpions||14||3||1||10||-9||10|
|San Antonio Scorpions||12||6||2||4||4||20|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||12||5||3||4||5||18|
|Minnesota United FC||12||4||2||6||-5||14|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||12||2||2||8||-14||8|