Tampa Bay will begin a two-game road trip on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET with its fourth meeting against Minnesota. After capturing two victories and tying twice during the 2011 regular season against the Stars, the Rowdies lead the season series this year with two wins and one tie.
“We learned a lot about ourselves during that setback and the win (over Minnesota) was big for us because the season could have gone in a different direction if we had lost,” Rowdies forward Mike Ambersley said. “We’re confident about how we’re playing now and we need to continue taking care of business.”
The Rowdies resurgence of late has benefitted from the return of Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, who was named as the NASL Player of the Month for June this past Monday. Yoshitake scored four goals and added an assist in the three wins last month after his return from a chest injury suffered in May.
“It’s not just by chance that Yoshi is playing so efficiently and finishing the way he has been,” Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. “He stays behind after training and works extra every day with a bag of balls, shooting from different angles and on different runs. The thing I always say to the players is it’s about what you do during the week and it transfers over to how you play in the game and it has been shown in Yoshi’s play.”
Yoshitake tallied another goal in the July 4th victory over Ft. Lauderdale and leads the team in goals with six and in points with 14. He received the NASL Offensive Player of the Week after a goal and an assist in the June 16th win at Minnesota and was awarded the honor for the second straight week after scoring twice in a home win over San Antonio on June 23.
This will be the final regular season meeting between Tampa Bay and Minnesota, who captured the lone postseason battle between the two clubs with a 1-0 victory in the 2011 NASL quarterfinals. The fourth-place Stars trail the Rowdies by one point in the standings.
The meeting with Minnesota will be the Rowdies’ fifth game in their last six contests against teams with winning records. After Thursday’s game, the Rowdies will finish the regular season with nine of 12 games against teams currently possessing losing records.
“We’ve been able to withstand some injuries and maintain a high rating despite having played a rather tough schedule to start the season against a majority of the teams with winning records,” Hill said. “We have grown through the adversity and we are coming together as a team with solid chemistry.”
The road trip wraps up on Sunday at FC Edmonton in a 4 p.m. ET contest. This will be the last two-game set away from home for the Rowdies.
More Yoshi: In the vote conducted by the 20 main media members from NASL markets, Yoshitake finished one point ahead of San Antonio forward Pablo Campos and Ft. Lauderdale forward Mark Anderson, who tied for second.
It is the first NASL Player of the Month award for the Rowdies since Ambersley won it last season in August and Aaron King earned the honors in July.
The Rowdies have already claimed six weekly NASL awards this season, tops in the league.
Yoshitake has proven to be one of the most electrifying players on the pitch game in and game out.
“It a tremendous accolade personally for Yoshi,” Hill said in a release by RowdiesSoccer.com. “It’s great for the team likewise because it suggests that we are playing attacking, attractive football and Yoshi’s obviously a big part of that. He fully deserves all the awards that he’s got for his hard work, his efforts and his finishing.”
1. Tsuyhoshi Yoshitake 6
2. Daniel Antoniuk 5
3. Mike Ambersley 4
1. Tsuyoshi Yoshitake 14
2. Daniel Antoniuk 13
1. Keith Savage 4
1. Jeff Attinella 1,350
2. Frankie Sanfilippo 1,350
3. Takuya Yamada 1,350
Stat of the Week: The 3-1 victory over Ft. Lauderdale on July 4th was the second straight game that the Rowdies prevented a team from scoring in the second half. This may be a sign that the Rowdies have figured out their second-half play considering they have surrendered just three goals in the first half and 16 in the second half this season.