ST. PETERSBURG, FLA -- The Rowdies defeated Puerto Rico 2-0 Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium to move into second place in the NASL standings. Tampa Bay has now four straight matches at home, as well as six of its last seven games overall.
Forward Mike Ambersley had a goal and an assist, while defender and team captain Frankie Sanfilippo notched the game-winner for the Rowdies in the 72nd minute. Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella earned his second straight shutout, his fifth overall this season and the 10th clean sheet of his career.
“Everyone came out ready to play to get the victory," said Sanfilippo. "When we played at their place, we were definitely in the games and just missed the opportunities. Tonight we created and finished those chances to come out with the win.”
The start of the match was delayed one hour and 23 minutes because of lightning in the area.
“We created some good chances in the first half and their goalkeeper was called into action several times," said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. "I was very pleased with the intensity and the focus to keep the clean sheet and in the second half I told the team to continue what they had been doing.”
Despite playing without leading goal scorer Tsuyoshi Yoshitake because of a red card at FC Edmonton last Sunday, the Rowdies put pressure on Puerto Rico from the beginning.
“We started the game very brightly, obviously the delay because of the weather affected both teams and I asked the players to try to get out on the front foot and take the game to them.”
Tampa Bay had the first chance of the match in the 12th minute when forward Matt Clare fired a shot on goal that was saved by Puerto Rico goalkeeper Richard Martin and cleared away for a corner kick.
Clare had another opportunity in the 27th minute when his powerful left footed shot forced a diving save by Martin after a pass from forward Daniel Antoniuk.
In the 33rd minute, midfielder Luke Mulholland sent a well-placed free kick into the box onto the head of defender Daniel Scott, but Martin made the save. A minute later, Mulholland found himself open in the box after a back heel pass from midfielder Stuart Campbell, but his shot sailed wide.
The Rowdies looked for the first goal of the night and 50 minutes into the match Clare got a great chance when he was one-on-one with Martin but his shot went wide right.
Tampa Bay continued to dominate possession and in the 69th minute Clare saw his powerful strike denied by Martin once again. He received a great feed from Ambersley and his shot from the left side of box was saved.
The Rowdies finally beat Martin in the 72nd minute. Ambersley sent a cross to the back post to Sanfilippo, who one-timed the volley into the net for a 1-0 lead. It was Sanfilippo's first goal of the year and the assist gave Ambersley a point in five straight matches. Ambersley leads the team with six assists overall in 2012.
“Mike played me an unbelievable ball at the far post," said Sanfilippo. "I just one-timed it to finish it and it was great, not only for me, but for everybody on the team.”
Ambersley gave the Rowdies an insurance goal in the 85th minute after second half substitute Fafa Picault placed a great long ball for Ambersley, who slipped it past Martin to seal the Rowdies victory. It was Ambersley's fifth goal of the season.
“Fafa played a great ball in between the goalie and me," said Ambersley. "Their goalkeeper misplayed the ball and didn’t reach it in time, so I just had to chip it over him and luckily I put enough spin on it to catch the far corner.”
Tampa Bay held an impressive 24-10 advantage in shots, including 11 on goal while holding Puerto Rico to just two shots on goal, including none in the second half.
The Rowdies, who are now unbeaten in their last five at home, close their homestand next Saturday, July 28 against FC Edmonton, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET at Al Lang Stadium, presented by Lotto.
Tampa Bay: Frankie Sanfilippo - 72nd minute (assisted by Mike Ambersley)
Tampa Bay: Mike Ambersley - 85th minute (assisted by Fafa Picault)
Tampa Bay: Frankie Sanfilippo - 57th minute
Puerto Rico Islanders
GK Richard Martin, D Richard Martinez, D Alexis Rivera, D Anthony Vazquez, D Jay Needham, M Noah Delgado (Captain) (Marco Velez 85'), M Jarad Van Schaik, M Osei Telesford (Joshua Hansen 73'), F Jonathan Fana, F Hector Ramos, F Gregory Richardson (Yaw Danso 80')
Tampa Bay Rowdies
GK Jeff Attinella, D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D JP Rodrigues, D Daniel Scott, D Takuya Yamada, M Stuart Campbell, M Luke Mulholland, M Keith Savage, F Mike Ambersley, F Daniel Antoniuk (Fafa Picault 70'), F Matt Clare (Shane Hill 82')
Puerto Rico: 10 shots (2 on goal), 9 saves, 13 fouls, 5 corners, 4 offsides
Tampa Bay: 24 shots (11 on goal), 2 saves, 9 fouls, 5 corners, 5 offsides