On Wednesday, the Rowdies will have an opportunity to accomplish a monumental feat of four straight victories in a match against their in-state rival, Fort Lauderdale.
But don’t think making history has crept into the minds of the players.
“We’re not focused on the streak, except to say that we’re happy with the type of momentum we’ve created,” said Rowdies forward Mike Ambersley, who scored the initial goal against Minnesota. “We’re taking one game at a time and it is easier when you’re winning to do something like that. We like the chemistry we’ve created and we feel we’re playing the best we’ve had all season.”
After their second win over the Stars during the streak, the Rowdies now sit alone in third place with 21 points (6-3-5).
“I hope the streak allows us to build blocks one by one by one,” Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. “Particularly in the past month, there has been an intensity and a seriousness to the players’ work everyday in practice and they’ve put all in. What pleased me tonight was their conditioning and their poise even when we were under a barrage of shots in the second half (against Minnesota).”
The Rowdies have benefitted from the return of Japanese forward Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, who missed five matches mid-way through the season after colliding with an Atlanta player and injuring his chest May 19 in a 3-2 road win.
In his first game back, he scored a goal and assisted on another in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 road victory on June 16 against Minnesota.
He followed it up with two goals — including the game-winner — against San Antonio in the Rowdies’ stunning 3-2 come-from-behind victory in front of a home crowd during which a constant rain fell as a result of Tropical Storm Debby. He also drew a foul to set up Luke Mulholland’s direct kick equalizer in the 88th minute.
On Saturday, Yoshitake, who garnered NASL Offensive Player of the Week two weeks in a row, scored again to bring his season total to a team-leading five goals. He also leads the team in points (12).
Keep the streak alive
The Rowdies have split the first two games against Fort Lauderdale this year. Tampa Bay secured a 3-1 home victory on April 28 and the Strikers returned the favor with a 3-1 win at their place on June 2. The loss at Lockhart Stadium ended a nine-game unbeaten streak for the Rowdies in the series since its return in 2010. It also snapped a four-game winning streak for the Rowdies over the Strikers.
“We’ve had a great record against them, but they beat us the last time and that was a turning point because it was a very disappointing loss for us,” Hill said. “Last year against Carolina, it was similar for us because we didn’t deserve to lose, but we didn’t do enough to win and it was the same against Fort Lauderdale. Since that moment, the players have regrouped, re-focused and come with bags of energy and I’m glad with the way they’ve worked and if they keep producing the kind of effort, good things will follow.”
Tampa Bay is undefeated at home against Fort Lauderdale over the past five games with four wins and one tie.
Fort Lauderdale is currently fifth place in the league with 19 points, two points behind the Rowdies. In their last outing, Fort Lauderdale defeated Carolina, 2-1, Saturday night at Lockhart Stadium.
Strikers midfielder Walter Restrepo leads the team with five assists, tied for most in the NASL. Forward Mark Anderson is tied for second in the league with a team-leading seven goals.
Rowdies continue to rack awards
Rowdies goalkeeper Jeff Attinella got in on the act for receiving player of the week honors when he was named the NASL Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after making four saves in the win over Minnesota. Attinella recorded his third shutout of the season and the eighth of his career. It is the second time this year he has received the award after he was honored following the win over Fort Lauderdale on April 28. This marks the fourth time he has received the award in his career.
In addition to Attinella and Yoshitake, the Rowdies have also had two other players receive player of the week honors this season.
Rowdies defender Frankie Sanfilippo earned NASL Defensive Player of the Week on May 28 and forward Daniel Antoniuk was named Offensive Player of the Week on May 21.
Fourth of July celebration
Before Wednesday’s game, the Ralph’s Mob fan group will host a tailgate party open to the public on the corner of First Avenue South and First Street, just in front of Al Lang Stadium. The pre-game festivities will begin at 2 p.m. with free food and beverages available to all Rowdies’ fans.
Following the match that begins at 6:30 p.m. ET, fans are invited to watch the city of St. Petersburg’s fireworks from the field at Al Lang Stadium.
Rowdies forward Mike Ambersley, On the Ralph’s Mob fan group and the type of atmosphere at home: “It’s electric. It’s awesome out there. They’re living with every shot, with every pass, you can tell, that’s the kind of fans you want to have you want to be playing behind, so they’ve been great all year. We don’t expect anything less. We look forward to Wednesday night and giving them another win.”Fans can buy tickets for all Rowdies home games by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 813-287-1539 or logging onto RowdiesSoccer.com. Tickets will be available at the box office at Al Lang Stadium beginning at 3:30 p.m. on gameday as well. All Rowdies matches are broadcast live online at RowdiesSoccer.com.