Before a 7,003-strong crowd, the Rabbits and the Rowdies shared the points on Matchday One at Lang Stadium in St. Petersberg. The Rowdies opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, thanks to a Kareem Moses own goal. But what about Ameobi you might ask?
Well, the Geordie scored his first goal in a competitive match for the club, using his ability in the air to beati Matt Pickens, who spent the last six years with Colorado Rapids SC.
"I felt that we worked hard and dug in," Rowdies manager Ricky Hill said. "The second half opened a little bit more and I felt that half was a lot better. We managed to string a few passes together and make a few moves. We still have to be a little bit braver collectively in terms of keeping possession of the ball."
Edmonton started the better of the two sides, with Pickens performing some excellent saves to keep them off the score sheet. But as the game wore on, Tampa Bay took control.
"We started the half well," said Edmonton manager Colin at halftime. "But as the half went on, we panicked a little. We will need to calm the guys down and play a bit more football."
For a large portion of the match, Edmonton looked beaten. Tampa Bay bottled them up in the middle of the park, limiting Edmonton's scoring chances, and they had the better run of play. The visitors could count themselves fortunate not to have conceded another.
In the 54th minute, Edmonton earned a penalty after Pickens fouled Frank Jonke. Neil Hlavaty took the kick, but Pickens guessed right, and was able to make the save and keep the Rowdies narrow lead intact.
In the 74th minute, Tomi Ameobi came on for Horace James, and six minutes later, Hanson Boakai replaced Milton Blanco. Eight minutes later, with the clock approaching stoppage time, Daryl Fordyce found Ameobi with a perfectly timed cross, which levelled the match at one apiece.
"We’ve still got a lot of work to do," Pickens said of the result. "In any league, these are all dogfights. The first month of the season is going to be like this. We're super disappointed not to get three points and to give away a pretty cheap goal late in the game. We got a point and we've got to move on."
The final five minutes were breathtaking end-to-end action, with both sides looking for the late winner. Neither side could find the goal, and the whistle blew, ending the first match of the Spring season for both clubs.
"I'm happy with the effort and the commitment for sure, but can we do better offensively? Of course we can," Hill said. "We changed it, we brought on Casey (Townsend) and we brought on Lucky (Mkosana) and they had an impact straight away, which was nice. It's a shame we couldn't hold out for that goal, but never mind. We got a point. We'll move on to next week."
"The players were magnificent this half,” said Miller after the match. "The absolute minimum we deserved this game was a draw and I'm so proud of the players and the character that they displayed this evening."
The Rabbits now return home to Edmonton for a meeting with the New York Cosmos next Saturday, on April 19th.