The Tampa Bay Rowdies were knocked out in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night with a 3-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids.
Playing an opponent from Major League Soccer for the first time in a competitive environment, the Rowdies started the game well.
Twice in the opening 6 minutes, Tampa Bay hit the crossbar, including on a free kick from Luke Mulholland that went above the Rapids' defensive wall but didn't dip down far enough.
"I honestly thought it was going in," Mulholland said. "I've hit the crossbar now two or three times. I beat the keeper and I knew he wasn't getting there, but then the crossbar denied me. That was unfortunate."
Unlike the Rowdies, the Rapids took advantage of their scoring opportunities.
Colorado took a lead in the 17th minute when a linesman ruled defender Draymond Washington committed a handball before goalkeeper Jeff Attinella collected a loose ball.
Colorado forward Edu scored the ensuing penalty kick, giving the Rapids a 1-0 lead.
"For the linesman to give (the penalty), I think is very difficult," Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. "He hasn't got a great angle, he's a long way away. The referee is in the center of the pitch. Apparently it hit Draymond and rolled up his leg and then hit his arm. As far as I'm concerned, there's no intention. … We feel slightly aggrieved I guess because the first goal is always going to be vital in a game like that. For us not to get it and then for them to get it in those circumstances is quite a bitter pill to swallow."
It was the first time this season Tampa Bay allowed a first-half goal.
Colorado forward Andre Akpan doubled the lead with a left-footed goal past Attinella in the 33rd minute.
Akpan played five games for Tampa Bay on loan from Colorado in 2010 without scoring.
Down 2-0 at halftime, the Rowdies started the second half strong, but again, they failed to score.
Forward Mike Ambersley forced Colorado goalkeeper Stewart Ceus into a diving save that he nearly deflected into his own net. On the ensuing corner kick, Daniel Antoniuk got a free header, but Ceus was there for the save again. He finished with six saves.
Colorado coach Oscar Pareja applauded the Rowdies' level of play and preparedness for the test of playing against an MLS team.
"I think we played against a really good team," he said. "I think Ricky is doing a great job with that team with the way they play. That was a difficult opponent. I'm pleased with what we have achieved today."
Colorado's Kamani Hill made the score 3-0 in the 89th minute before Tampa Bay's Matt Clare scored a consolation goal in the 92nd minute.
With the loss, Tampa Bay was eliminated from the Open Cup.