|Sat. 4/7||at Puerto Rico (7:30)||Wed. 7/4||FT. LAUDERDALE (6:30)|
|Sat. 4/14||EDMONTON (7:30)||Thurs. 7/12||at Minnesota (8:30)|
|Wed. 4/18||CAROLINA (7:30)||Sun 7/15||at Edmonton (4:05)|
|Sat. 4/21||at Atlanta (7:30)||Sat. 7/21||PUERTO RICO (7:30)|
|Sat. 4/28||FT. LAUDERDALE (7:30)||Sat. 7/28||EDMONTON (7:30)|
|Sat. 5/5||at San Antonio (8:30)||Sat. 8/4||at Carolina (7:00)|
|Sat. 5/12||SAN ANTONIO (7:30)||Sat. 8/11||ATLANTA (7:30)|
|Sat. 5/19||at Atlanta (7:30)||Sun 8/19||at San Antonio (8:30)|
|Sat. 5/26||MINNESOTA (7:30)||Sat. 8/25||PUERTO RICO (7:30)|
|Sat. 6/2||at Ft. Lauderdale (7:30)||Sat. 9/1||at Ft. Lauderdale (7:30)|
|Sat. 6/9||at Puerto Rico (7:30)||Sat. 9/8||ATLANTA (7:30)|
|Sat. 6/16||at Minnesota (8:30)||Sun. 9/16||at Edmonton (4:05)|
|Sat. 6/23||SAN ANTONIO (7:30)||Wed. 9/19||CAROLINA (7:30)|
|Sat. 6/30||MINNESOTA (7:30)||Sat. 9/22||at Carolina (7:00)|
Tampa Bay came from down 2-0 Saturday to tie Carolina 3-3, sending the Rowdies into the NASL Championship.
The result, coupled with Tampa Bay's 2-1 victory in Carolina last week, gave the Rowdies a 5-4 aggregate victory in the two-leg semifinal.
Carolina nearly took the lead late but Tampa Bay midfielder Stuart Campbell made the save of the year, clearing a header by Carolina's Brian Ackley off the goal line.
It was a thrilling night at Al Lang as Carolina, knowing a two-goal margin would put it into the finals, charged ahead 2-0 within 20 minutes. But the Rowdies got a key score in the 40th minute on a disputed penalty. Mike Ambersley no doubt was fouled but it happened right at the top of the penalty box.
Shane Hill's perfect penalty kick pulled the Rowdies within 2-1 at half but more importantly evened the teams on aggregate 3-3.
Tampa Bay carried the momentum over and poured on the pressure to start the second half. It finally was rewarded when in the 69th minute Mike Ambersley cleaned up a rebound to tie the game, and make it 4-3 Rowdies on aggregate.
In the second half alone Tampa Bay had 15 shots.
Carolina nearly retook the lead in the game, which would have set up a possible overtime, but for Campbell's heroics in the 81st minute. Then Luke Mulholland's goal in the 84th minute looked like it slammed the door shut on Carolina, but the Railhawks got one back in the 87th minute on a penalty-kick goal by Wharton grad Nick Zimmerman.
Tampa Bay will either take on league leader San Antonio or Minnesota for the two-game final. If San Antonio defeats Minnesota Sunday then the Rowdies will host next Saturday's next game.
Otherwise the Rowdies would head to Minnesota first and then host the season's final game Oct. 27.
The crowd of 4, 132 saw the most entertaining game of the year as both teams went for broke. In fact Tampa Bay put up a whopping 23 shots with the Railhawks registering 16 of their own.
Mulholland hit the crossbar early on but the richochet sent Carolina onto a breakaway, and Floyd Franks assisted Matt Luzunaris for a goal in the 14th minute. Four minutes later Ty Shiplane made it 2-0 on a defensive mistake.
In what could have been a crusher for the Rowdies Luzunaris was barely wide on a clean break-in for a 3-0 lead. Then came the penalty that Carolina head coach Colin Clarke declared was the referee "giving Tampa a goal".
Still just minutes later the Rowdies appeared to get the wrong end of a call as Carl Cort headed in a cross from Keith Savage but was called for offside. Cort looked to be even with his defender.
With the teams rendered even and 45 minutes to go, each siide looked like it had no interest in chancing overtime. Carolina had two solid shots at a 3-1 lead miss, and the Rowdies created one opportunity after the next before Ambersley finally scored on a setup by Cort and Mulholland.
Though there was no assist given on the Mulholland goal because he rebounded his own shot, credit goes to Frankie Sanfillipo for spring Keith Savage down the right wing, and Savage for the cross to Mulholland.