The former Chelsea and West Ham United midfielder bagged a second-half brace as the NASL club were beaten 3-2 by Indy Eleven at Al Lang Stadium on Wednesday night.
While Joe Cole could not prevent the Tampa Bay Rowdies from falling to a 3-2 home defeat to Indy Eleven on Wednesday night, it was certainly not for lack of trying.
The 34-year-old former Chelsea and England midfielder, who joined the US second-tier club from Coventry City in May, netted two second-half goals – including a spectacular long-range effort – as he spearheaded a spirited fightback that just came up short in the end.
Indy were 2-0 up within 31 minutes at Al Lang Stadium through goals from forward pair Duke Lacroix and Jair Reinoso, before Cole put the ball into the back of the net twice during the last 12 minutes of the first half only to be ruled offside on both occasions.
The ex-West Ham United and Aston Villa playmaker eventually got on the scoresheet eight minutes into the second period, however, when he found himself perfectly positioned after teammate Georgi Hristov forced a parried save from Indy goalkeeper Keith Cardona, pouncing on the rebound and lashing home from close range to reduce the deficit.
With the hosts going on to dominate the rest of the second period, their star man then put them back on level terms in the 68th minute in breath-taking fashion, collecting the ball on the edge of the box before launching a fierce shot into the top left-hand corner of the net.
— Tampa Bay Rowdies (@TampaBayRowdies) October 20, 2016
At that point, the Rowdies looked the likelier team to go on to win the match, but they were dealt a cruel blow five minutes before stoppage-time when Indy midfielder Nicki Paterson brought down a cross-field pass from Gerrardo Torrado and smashed the ball past opposition keeper Matt Pickens from the top of the area to secure the visitors all three points.
The result means Stuart Campbell’s men remain in ninth place in the NASL Fall Season table with 22 points from 20 games and face an uphill battle to make the league’s four-team postseason tournament, known as “The Championship”.
They currently sit sixth in the combined standings, four points behind Minnesota United and Rayo OKC, and now have just two matches left to bridge the gap after failing to win their past five fixtures.
“It’s absolutely devastating,” head coach Campbell told the Rowdies’ official website after the loss to Indy. “We had them penned in for longer than 30 minutes in that second half and I really thought we were going to go and get the third goal.
“That start we had to the first half cost us the game tonight. … We knew what was at stake and we went out there as if we were the team that was set in the playoffs. It’s very, very frustrating.”
If Tampa Bay do beat the odds and make the playoffs, though, they will certainly owe a great deal of thanks to Cole.
The three-time Premier League winner has been a shining star for the Florida outfit in his first season in the USA, recording nine goals and seven assists, and was even named on the 10-man shortlist for the NASL Golden Ball award this week – the honour given to the league’s most valuable player of the year.