With 20 games in the books for the 2012 season, the Rowdies head into the final seven weeks of the regular season with a lot to still be determined.
Tampa Bay is unbeaten in eight of its last nine matches and is tied for second place in the standings with Puerto Rico with 34 points each. The two teams trail first-place San Antonio by just one point, with the Scorpions holding one game in hand.
The top two teams earn first round byes in the NASL playoffs, with the third through sixth place finishers playing one-game quarterfinal matches on the opening weekend of the postseason.
Here is a look at some trends from the first 20 matches for the Rowdies:
Tampa Bay has had a flair for the dramatic this season, scoring the game-winning or game-tying goal in the 70th minute or later in six matches. The latest comeback came last Saturday night in Cary, North Carolina, as the Rowdies rallied from a 3-1 deficit on a goal by Luke Mulholland in the 86th minute and Takuya Yamada's equalizer in second half stoppage time - off a Mulholland corner kick - to steal a point on the road at Carolina. The heart-stopping comeback marked the fourth time in the last nine matches that the Rowdies rallied from a deficit to earn points.
Part of Tampa Bay's knack for late game heroics is their ability to score goals when needed. Of the Rowdies' 29 goals this season, 19 have come in the second half, including 15 tallies in the 70th minute or later.
Al Lang Stadium is arguably the toughest venue for opposing teams to play in across the NASL and Tampa Bay's success at home certainly supports that. The Rowdies are undefeated in their last six matches in downtown St. Petersburg, including five consecutive victories. Tampa Bay has lost just once in 10 home league matches in 2012, and its seven home victories are tied for most in the league. In fact, the Rowdies have lost just twice in their last 17 regular season home contests.
Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella and the Rowdies defense have played a major role in Tampa Bay's march up the standings. Over the last nine matches, Tampa Bay has given up nine total goals, an average of just one per game, after conceding 15 goals in its first 11 games.
For the season, the Rowdies have allowed 24 goals, the fourth-fewest in the league and have posted six shutouts, including clean sheets in three of their last four matches. When Carolina scored late in the first half last Saturday, the goal snapped a shutout streak of more than 358 minutes for the Rowdies, dating back to the last goal allowed late in the first half on July 12 at Minnesota.
The Rowdies have received contributions from nearly everyone on the roster this season, and several players are getting hot with the playoffs drawing closer. Forward Mike Ambersley now has at least one point in seven consecutive matches and leads the team with eight assists in 2012. During the streak, Ambersley has three goals and six assists in the last seven games. Luke Mulholland has two goals and two assists over the last four matches, including four points in the draw at Carolina.
Consistent Lineup Cards
Another factor in Tampa Bay's success has been its ability to have consistency in the lineup. In the midfield, Stuart Campbell has started all 20 games and played in 1,747 minutes, fifth-most in the NASL. Keith Savage is one of just six Rowdies to play in every match and his four assists are second on the club, while Shane Hill has played in 16 contests.
The backline has thrived, thanks to the consistent play of right back and captain Frankie Sanfilippo, left back JP Rodrigues, and center backs Daniel Scott and Takuya Yamada. The group has started together in eight of the last nine matches, with Sanfilippo and Yamada playing every minute this season.
Ambersley is one of five Rowdies to start all 20 matches, while Mulholland has missed just one match this season. Forward Daniel Antoniuk has played in all 20 games, while Matt Clare (18 games) and Fafa Picault (12 matches) have both seen significant minutes up top.
Ambersley continues to be among the top forwards in the NASL, with a balance of 18 points in 2012, including five goals and a league-leading eight assists. He has tallied a total of 47 points in 47 games played since joining the Rowdies prior to the 2011 season. Antoniuk has made his presence felt quickly in his first season with the Rowdies with 15 points, including six goals to lead the current roster.
Tampa Bay is back in action when it hosts the Atlanta Silverbacks this Saturday, August 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg. The third annual Rowdies Buick/GMC Celebrity game will take place at halftime. For tickets, call 813-287-1539 or click here.