USA-born T&T midfielder Andre Fortune was among the goals as his North Carolina FC rallied from 0-2 down to earn a 2-2 draw with FC Tampa Bay Rowdies in the United Soccer League (USL) Championship Division at Al Lang Stadium, Progress Energy Park, St Petersburg, Florida on Friday night.
North Carolina had the first real look in the fifth minute when Robbie Kristo dragged a shot across the face of goal and just wide of the right post.
Two minutes later, however, the Rowdies opened the scoring as Leo Fernandes kept a play alive on the left side after a low cross by Sebastian Guenzatti, and Fernandes’ return ball across the six-yard area found Guenzatti, who fired home from a narrow angle into the left corner.
The visitors had a chance to reply when they kept the play alive after a free-kick was half-cleared to Pecka, who fired through a crowd in the penalty area from 25 yards, only for Rowdies goalkeeper Evan Louro to hold onto the effort in the slick conditions.
Tampa Bay doubled its lead in the 22nd minute, and Fernandes was in the middle of the play again.
After the side was awarded a kick just outside the top-right corner of the penalty area, the Brazilian curled a left-footed delivery that eluded everyone and found the left corner of the net. North Carolina thought it had pulled a goal back eight minutes later, but Kristo was ruled offside as he turned home a cross.
North Carolina threatened again early in the second half and Louro had to be sharp to keep out a low shot from Ben Speas six minutes after the break.
The Rowdies goalkeeper had little chance to keep out 24-year-old Fortune’s shot in the 56th minute when an errant pass by Lucky Mkosana after a corner kick came to the midfielder, and his first-time shot powered into the left corner.
The visitors continued to pressure throughout the second half, and with seven minutes to go, it paid off.
A short passing movement on the right side allowed a chance for DJ Taylor to deliver a deep cross, and Kristo rose above his marker and sent a header back into the right corner of the net to level the score, earning his side a point.
Also on Friday night, Cordell Cato picked up a 36th-minute yellow card in Oklahoma City Energy FC's 3-1 spanking of Austin Bold FC.
Saturday (July 18), Noah Powder and reigning champions Real Monarchs, who suffered 1-0 loss to San Diego Loyal, were scheduled to battle Colorado Springs Switchbacks while national defender Neveal Hackshaw will be keen to add to his winning strike versus Saint Louis FC as Indy Eleven faces Sporting Kansas City II, and the trio of Leston Paul, Triston Hodge and Duane Muckette and Memphis 901 FC travel to Atlanta United II.
Leland Archer and Kierron Mason will be the last T&T players to see action in the opening week when their Charleston Battery battles Birmingham Legion FC on Sunday (July 19) while Shannon Gomez’ Sacramento Republic meets Reno 1868 FC.
Overall, 11 T&T international footballers will feature in the league’s revised schedule for the 2020 USL Championship season.