The Tampa Bay Rowdies enter the annual July 4 Florida derby against bitter rival Fort Lauderdale at Al Lang Field having won three matches in a row and jumping from fifth place in the NASL standings to third.
With the regular season halfway complete — the Rowdies have played 14 of 28 league matches — now is the time to examine what went right for the Rowdies in the first half of the season, and what to look forward to in the second.
Best performance (team)
Rowdies 3, San Antonio 2 at Al Lang (June 23): The Scorpions came to St. Petersburg at the top of the NASL and in the midst of a nine-match league unbeaten streak. Tampa Bay entered having lost three of its previous four but showed resiliency a week earlier in rallying to win at Minnesota. Against San Antonio, the Rowdies displayed even greater resolve. Twice, the Rowdies responded from a goal down amidst a steady downpour courtesy of Tropical Storm Debby. Keith Savage and Luke Mulholland had tying goals — Mulholland's came in the 88th minute — and Tsuyoshi Yoshitake capped the comeback with the winner in second-half stoppage time to send Al Lang into hysterics. "It was a real team effort from the whole squad," Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill said.
Rowdies 2, Minnesota 1 at NSC Stadium (June 16)
Rowdies 3, Fort Lauderdale 1 at Al Lang (April 28)
First half MVP
F Tsuyoshi Yoshitake: To gauge the Japanese product's indispensability, look at Tampa Bay's record in matches Yoshitake has missed. After suffering a chest injury in a brutal collision May 19 in Atlanta, Yoshitake missed three league matches and the Rowdies lost twice and tied once. With Yoshitake's return, the Rowdies have won three in a row against quality opponents. Yoshitake has four goals in those three games and leads the Rowdies in goals (five) and points (12).
D Takuya Yamada
F Luke Mulholland
Best performance (individual)
F Daniel Antoniuk, two goals at Atlanta (May 19): Playing against one of his former teams, Antoniuk scored two first-half goals and barely missed a few other chances to key a 3-2 win, the team's first road win of the season. The Philadelphia native scored in the 12th minute after a nice feed over the top from M Shane Hill. He added goal No. 2 in the 37th minute, burying M Keith Savage's header pass past Atlanta GK Daniel Illyes. Antoniuk was named NASL offensive player of the week two days later.
F Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, two goals vs. San Antonio (June 23)
GK Jeff Attinella, eight saves, shutout vs. FC Edmonton (April 14)
D Daniel Scott: Hawaii-born Scott used J.P. Rodrigues' call up to the Guyana National Team as a means to break into the top 11 and has since started the past four games. Now, with Rodrigues back, a defense with Scott and Rodrigues in the center and Takuya Yamada and Frankie Sanfilippo on the sides has produced three straight wins. Hill is pragmatic in his player selections; if the team wins, he won't tinker with the lineup. So expect to see more of Scott in the season's second half.
D Draymond Washington's play as an attacking left back
F Luke Mulholland's quality in his first full NASL season
Rowdies vs. Fort Lauderdale
When/where: 6:30; Al Lang Field, St. Petersburg
Light up the bay: Fans are invited to come onto the field and watch the City of St. Petersburg's fireworks display from the outfield grass following the match.
Records: Rowdies 6-5-3 (21 points); Fort Lauderdale 5-5-4 (19 points)
Last time: Tampa Bay beat Minnesota 2-0 Saturday at Al Lang. Fort Lauderdale halted Carolina's four-game league win streak with a 2-1 win at Lockhart Stadium.
Notes: Rowdies G Jeff Attinella won the NASL's Defensive Player of the Week award for the second time this season following his clean sheet against Minnesota. … Since the return of the Tampa Bay franchise in 2010, the team has lost only once to Fort Lauderdale in 10 matches. … Rowdies F Mike Ambersley has three goals this season, all game winners.