The reigning NASL champion Rowdies failed to win or draw for the first time in 14 home games as they blew a 3-1 lead and fell to a 4-3 defeat to the Atlanta Silverbacks.
Tampa had led the Silverbacks 3-1 at the interval through an Evans Frimpong strike and a Luke Mulholland double and looked good value for their lead until the visitors replied with three goals that rocked Al Lang Stadium.
“I saw the warning signs in the first half and we didn’t deserve to be 3-1 up,” admitted Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “The disappointing thing was they scored goals from outside the box and we backed off and let them have shots. When you’re 3-1 up you should take something from the game and we haven’t done that through our own inability as a team."
The Rowdies took the lead just eight minutes into their second home game of the NASL campaign as Frimpong chested down pass from Mulholland after great ball in from Amani Walker and looped a finish over keeper Joe Nasco with his first career goal for the Rowdies.
The Silverbacks were level through a Ruben Luna header on the end of a Borfor Carr cross with 23 minutes played, but less than a minute later a Georgi Hristov pull back from the byeline found Mulholland just outside the 18-yard box and his left foot drive made it 2-1.
Three minutes before halftime, Mulholland claimed his second goal and opened a 3-1 advantage for the Rowdies with a perfectly struck free kick that caught Nasco out of position from 25 yards out.
In the 53rd minute striker Mendes caught Rowdies keeper Andrew Fontein off his line and blasted a superb 35-yard finish into the home net to pull Atlanta within a goal of tying the contest.
With 63 minutes played, a hopeful Silverbacks through ball was clipped past Fontein, who rushed from his goal to clear the danger but collided with his own player Jay Needham as Luna applied the finishing touch to fill an empty net and level the score at 3-3.
Mendes then completed the remarkable Atlanta comeback by earning the Silverbacks a 4-3 lead with 20 minutes still remaining. There was drama at the end as Jahbari Willis was red-carded during injury time, but the clock ran out on the Rowdies’ comeback attempt.
“I’m very proud for their discipline and I have to give a lot of credit to the guys at the back and then the forwards did their job,” said Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes. “We’ve beaten one of the best teams in the league and we’ve done it with a lot of class.”
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|Tampa Bay Rowdies||14||5||5||4||3||20|
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