ST. PETERSBURG — The night called for soccer, then fireworks.
But FC Tampa Bay put on a sparkling display of offense Monday for a 4-2 victory over Fort Lauderdale in a game that continued a Fourth of July tradition in the Tampa Bay area and gave 4,248 in attendance at Al Lang Field plenty to cheer about before the postgame fireworks.
Pascal Millien produced a goal and two assists as Tampa Bay earned three points to move into a tie for fifth in the North American Soccer League with the Strikers.
"I decided this week to come out and have fun with my play," said Millien, who had tallied one goal and one assist in 11 games this season coming in. "We have incredible fans, and we had an even bigger crowd tonight, and we wanted to go out there and give them something to cheer about."
When he founded FC Tampa Bay in 2008, owner Andrew Nestor wanted to renew the festive combination of soccer and fireworks that the original NASL's Rowdies made popular from 1978 to 1986 and the Major League Soccer's Mutiny continued from 1996 to 2001.
Monday's meeting with its in-state rival turned into a perfect beginning as Tampa Bay turned a 1-1 tie at halftime into a victory with three second-half goals.
Lightning in the area delayed the game for 59 minutes in the first half.
"We showed great character in the second half after the delay and the unfortunate penalty kick goal in the first half," Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill said. "There was a wake-up there for us, and we knew there was a Fourth of July crowd out there, and we wanted to match that energy. We asked for an increase of tempo from the guys in certain areas, and we pressed up some more, and we were able to put some things together."
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the first half on a corner kick that Andres Arango headed past Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser, with an assist from Millien. In the 55th minute, Millien received a pass from Tsuyoshi Yoshitake near the top of the penalty box and rifled a left-footed shot past Glaeser to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.
Millien hooked up with Aaron King eight minutes later. King took a pass from Millien, dribbled past several defenders and flicked a shot past Glaeser for a two-goal lead to send the crowd into a frenzy.
"It's always nice to play in front of a crowd like we have, but (Monday night's) fans were electric," Millien said.
The Strikers, who had tied it at 1-1 on Eduardo Coudet's 38th-minute penalty kick, got within 3-2 when Mike Palacio created a similar goal to King's and beat Jeff Attinella. But Millien got involved again in the 71st minute with a nifty pass to King, who found Mike Ambersley down the right sideline for an open goal. Tampa Bay won despite being outshot 21-16; each team had 11 shots on goal.
"I'm starting to feel more and more comfortable out there, and things are working nicely for us," said Attinella, the former USF and Countryside High standout who got his third win of 2011. "Playing in front of this crowd on the Fourth gave us some momentum and energy that was nice."
Ambersley's goal is his seventh of the season, moving him into third place in the NASL.