ST. PETERSBURG, FL (April 28, 2012) - The Tampa Bay Rowdies notched a 3-1 victory over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers as the teams resumed their long-standing rivalry Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium. With the victory, the Rowdies extend their unbeaten streak to four games and move into a tie for second place in the NASL standings with eight points. Tampa Bay also remained undefeated in all nine matches between the teams since its return in 2010, including four consecutive victories in the series.
“I think if I could have dreamt for that final score it would probably be what I would have envisioned,” said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. “The three points gives the boys some confidence. I was very pleased with the manner of how we played overall and the chances that we managed to create.”
Midfielder Keith Savage sent a perfect cross to the far post to forward Matt Clare, who deposited it in the bottom corner of the net for his first goal of the year in the 27th minute. Clare also scored against the Strikers in the final game of the 2011 regular season, a 2-0 Tampa Bay victory on September 24 in St. Petersburg.
In the 61st minute, forward Luke Mulholland was taken down in the box by a Strikers player, giving the Rowdies a penalty kick. Forward Mike Ambersley converted the penalty kick in the 62nd minute, scoring in the bottom left corner of the net for a 2-0 Tampa Bay lead. It was Ambersley's first goal of the year.
The Strikers got on the scoreboard in the 90th minute of play when midfielder Walter Restrepo headed the ball into the top right corner after a high cross from second half substitute Abe Thompson.
But the Rowdies put the game away in injury time as Savage made it 3-1 after a great assist from Ambersley. Savage received a pass from Ambersley, who had already eluded Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser, and his shot hit the bottom right of the net for his first goal of the year.
On the night, Ambersley had a goal and an assist, giving him 11 points on four goals and three assists in his last five matches against the Strikers.
Tampa Bay quickly got its first opportunity of the match in the first minute of play when forward Luke Mulholland had a great shot from the left side of the 18-yard box but his shot was saved by Glaeser.
The Rowdies came close to opening the scoring in the 22nd minute after Ambersley’s back heel left forward Tsuyoshi Yoshitake one on one with Glaeser. Ft Lauderdale’s goalkeeper dove to his left to make a great save and prevent the Rowdies first goal of the night.
Tampa Bay dominated the match from the 20th minute and it finally got on the scoreboard in the 27th minute. Clare received a great feed from Savage and from the left side of the six-yard box his shot beat Glaeser for the first goal of the night.
“I saw the defender start squeezing in a little bit because the ball was on the far side, so I made my run in and I just pulled out behind him,” said Clare. “Keith placed a great ball, made a good run and timed it well and I put the ball in the back of the net."
In the 29th minute, Yoshitake placed a great through ball for Ambersley but Glaeser came up big once again with a point blank save, sending the ball for a corner kick.
As the half came to a close, Ft. Lauderdale got its first clear opportunity to tie the game. Forward Aly Hassan entered the box from the left and powered a shot on goal, but Rowdies goalkeeper Jeff Attinella dove to his left and sent the ball out for a corner kick.
The Strikers opened the second half applying pressure on the Rowdies in search of the equalizer. In the 56th minute Attinella made a great diving stop on a powerful strike by Strikers defender Emelio Orozco.
“Mentally it’s important for most players to know that were going to face this type of onslaught, even at home at times and definitely on the road,” said Hill. “If we manage to score the first goal, then teams will become a little bit more desperate as the game goes on. They will throw more players forward and throw more balls forward as the game goes on. So it is important that our back four and the midfield in particular are very strong and that they are focused and that they try to clear their lines as best as they can.”
The Rowdies once again controlled possession of the ball and in the 62nd minute got the second goal of the night. Mulholland drew a penalty after being brought down by a Strikers defender, and Ambersley capitalized with a strike to the left side of the goal for the 2-0 lead. It was Ambersley's first goal of the year.
“When it came to the penalty kick, yesterday we talked about it in training and who it came to,” said Clare. “Mike Ambersley is our go to guy. We hope this gets him going and grows his confidence.”
Entering the 90th minute of play, Ft. Lauderdale’s Restrepo got his first goal of the season as he headed the ball into the top right corner of the net after a feed from Thompson.
Tampa Bay immediately made it a two-goal game once again, with Savage drilling the ball in the back of the net after a great individual run by Ambersley. Savage had scored the game-winning goal against the Strikers in the 2-0 win on September 24th in the 2011 regular season finale.
“That win felt better than beating anyone. Hopefully we continue going forward and keep this streak up,” said Savage.
The Rowdies remain undefeated at home in the 2012 season. With the 3-1 win, Tampa Bay has outscored Ft. Lauderdale 12-4 in the last five matches in the series.
The Rowdies play a home-and-home with San Antonio, beginning with a road contest at the Scorpions on Saturday, May 5, followed by a home match against San Antonio at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, May 12. For ticket information, call 813-287-1539.
Tampa Bay Rowdies: Matt Clare - 27th minute (assisted by Keith Savage)
Tampa Bay Rowdies: Mike Ambersley - 62nd minute - Penalty Kick
Ft. Lauderdale: Walter Restrepo - 90th minute (assisted by Abe Thompson)
Tampa Bay Rowdies: Keith Savage - 90th+ minute (assisted by Mike Ambersley)
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers: Toni Stahl - 42nd minute
Tampa Bay Rowdies: JP Rodrigues - 63rd minute
Tampa Bay Rowdies Lineup
GK Jeff Attinella, D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D JP Rodrigues, D Andres Arango, D Takuya Yamada, M Stuart Campbell, M Keith Savage, M Luke Mulholland, F Matt Clare (Shane Hill 77'), F Mike Ambersley, F Tsuyoshi Yoshitake (Daniel Antoniuk 77')
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers Lineup
GK Matt Glaeser, D Toni Stahl (Captain), D Emelio Orozco (Leopoldo Morales 80'), D Jack Stewart, D Lance Laing, M Pecka, M Scott Lorenz, M Walter Restrepo, M Conor Shanosky (Mark Anderson 68'), F Aly Hassan (Abe Thompson 73'), F Darnell King
Tampa Bay Rowdies: 16 shots, 6 saves, 11 fouls, 4 corners, 2 offsides
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers: 20 shots, 5 saves, 11 fouls, 7 corners, 2 offsides