A few minutes later he almost settled the whole thing. A Whymark shot slammed against the post and rebounded to Kevin Hector, who had an empty goal gaping in front of him. It was infinitely harder to miss than to score, but the usually deadly Hector managed the feat, hitting the underside of the bar so that the ball rebounded into play.
If the score had gone to 2-0 then, a rout of Tampa Bay would surely have followed. Even at 1-0 a cautious man might have put his eating money on the Caps. If he had, he would quite soon after have suffered a sharp attack of heartburn. About 10 minutes later, even with the Caps looking cool and self-possessed on defense, the Rowdies scored.
There was a shadow of doubt over the goal. It looked as if Tampa Bay's Peter Anderson had fouled the Caps' Carl Valentine while getting the ball through for Jan Van Der Veen to score. The call was not made, though, and now with more than 20 minutes left in the first half, Tampa was in the game again.
Fabbiani, mainly unsupported—as he gloomily had expected to be—had been playing some pretty though unproductive solo soccer. Now Marsh, who had been subdued for most of the half, clipped in a center from the right wing. Running in on it, Fabbiani sweetly headed the ball just inside the near post. But no goal. Fabbiani was ruled offside.
Then it was Whymark heading one into the net, only to see his goal disallowed, too. Hector or Whymark himself had impeded the Rowdies' goalie. This was meaty playoff soccer—bustling, end-to-end, exciting. The only losers were the fans, who sat there disconsolately chanting "Cosmos! Cosmos!" as if their team might somehow materialize.
At halftime though, if you weren't still looking for the resurrection of Franz Beckenbauer, it was possible to make an assessment. Territorially, Tampa Bay had had the greater share of the play, but near the goal the Caps had looked more dangerous. Valentine, at 21, the kind of young recruit NASL teams should be looking for—rather than the big-name, pass� players they are forever signing—was continually showing thrust and speed. There was Johnston's masterly jinking, Whymark's timely aggressiveness, prompting from that sly fox Alan Ball. Tampa Bay had nothing to match this. Wegerle, so often a threat for the Rowdies on the flank, was making no progress against Bob Lenarduzzi; Fabbiani just looked lonely; and for lengthy periods Marsh seemed to drop out of the game.
Just short of 15 minutes after the restart the Caps went ahead 2-1, characteristically off a movement initiated by Ball, who set up as if to cross, deceiving the Tampa Bay defense, but then pushed a short ground pass to Whymark. Whymark's right-foot shot would probably have beaten the goalie anyway, but Bilecki stood no chance at all when the hapless Kitchener stuck out his left leg and deflected the ball into the net. It turned out to be the final goal of the game.
As the second half ebbed away, the Rowdies, as they had to, came forward in strength. In the last 20 minutes there were times when Bilecki in the Tampa Bay goal was the only man in his half of the field. The redoubtable back four of the Caps stayed unshaken almost until the end: Lenarduzzi, first with Buzz Parsons, then with Bob Bolitho, all Canadians; John Craven and Roger Kenyon, the English League veterans.
The Tampa Bay substitutions began with about 19 minutes to go. Peter Baralic, the Yugoslav midfielder, replaced the ineffective Wegerle. Earlier, Fabbiani had said that Baralic was the one man he could rely on to feed him. But Baralic was plainly unfit—he had been injured against Detroit at the start of the playoffs—and his presence was of little help.
Marsh, meanwhile, had been lurking out on left wing, trying to shake off his cover. Free for an instant, he slammed in a shot that Parkes could only push away and allow Ray Lewington to clear. And then, just as suddenly, Marsh was taken off the field by Coach Gordon Jago. Understandably, Marsh was bitter, but as Jago later said, "We tried everything. So our last gamble was on speed."