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Bulls play FC Tampa Bay to a tie in exhibition

USF had a chance to end its spring season on an unlikely high note.

But a late equalizer by the FC Tampa Bay Rowdies, Tampa’s new minor league soccer team, managed a 1-1 draw Saturday at the USF Soccer Stadium after the Bulls pressured for the win all evening long.

“I was happy with our performance against a professional team and thought a tie was a good result for us,” said Bulls coach George Kiefer. “I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to close out the win in the last few minutes, but we learned that we have to do a better job managing the game in late situations.”

The Rowdies, a member of the USSF Division II League who begin their season this week, controlled most of a scoreless first half by outshooting USF 8-2, but a costly mistake in the 44th minute led to the Bulls’ first goal.

Following a turnover deep in FC Tampa Bay’s zone, USF sophomore forward Hasani Sinclair moved around a defender and, with a nifty pass to the center of the box, found midfielder Bernardo Anor, who lost control of the ball. Rowdies defender Takuya Yamada’s attempt to clear the ball, however, failed, as it ended up in the back of the net for an own goal.

Senior goalkeeper Jeff Attinella made several key saves in the second half, but FC Tampa Bay tied it in the 86th minute after forward Aaron King made a pin-point pass to midfielder Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe, and he blasted it into the net.

Attinella, who is projected to be a first-round pick in next year’s MLS draft, made seven saves. The result, he said, gives the squad a lot of confidence.

“Having a result like this against a professional team is a nice feeling for me and my teammates,” Attinella said. “I still have to keep working because the goal is to get shutouts, which will hopefully come next time I play a pro team, but to earn a draw against the Rowdies is a great accomplishment.”

FC Tampa Bay finished with a 2-0-3 preseason record and faces Baltimore on Friday in the season opener. Its home opener is May 8 at Steinbrenner Field.

The Bulls, who finished 14-4-3 last season and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament, are off until fall practice begins in August. Kiefer said he was pleased with his team’s spring training.

“We worked on a lot this spring and made some good progress,” Kiefer said. “We switched to a 4-4-2 formation, which will allow us to put more pressure on our opponents deep in their zones. When the season rolls around, I want our players to get after teams and take more risks. We caused some problems for (the Rowdies), which is a great sign. We should do very well against college teams if we can play like this against a professional team.”