ST. PETERSBURG — This soccer thing, it turns out, is pretty easy when the game plan works like it's drawn up.
Since the beginning of the season, FC Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill has devised a simple formula: attack for the opening score, play stout in defense with the lead and counterattack for an insurance goal.
Saturday, Tampa Bay executed Hill's plan with precision. Forward Warren Ukah sent a blast past Montreal goalkeeper Bill Gaudette to give Tampa Bay its first opening-half lead this season, and Mike Ambersley and Tsuyoshi Yoshitake added second-half goals in a 3-0 win in front of 3,343 at Al Lang Field.
"That's the pleasing thing … when we score first and then teams have to come at us and really come out and be a little bit more adventurous, I think then we're an even better side because we can penetrate and find spaces and move the ball a lot quicker at times," Hill said.
Tampa Bay (2-2-3) produced its third shutout of the season, all against Montreal.
Tampa Bay goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, a Clearwater native and former USF standout, earned the first clean sheet of his pro career, making 11 saves.
"Our defense did a good job of keeping them high, and the shots I did have to face, the shots were pretty far out, so those are a little easier to control," Attinella said.
Ukah produced the first score when he sent a strike past Gaudette in the 40th minute. Tampa Bay defender David Hayes dribbled down the left wing and saw Ukah at the edge of the 18-yard box. Hayes' touch lob was corralled by Ukah, who wheeled around and placed a well-hit ball into the goal.
"One of the best strikes I've seen from him," Hill said. "I didn't realize he had that kind of power in his locker."
Tampa Bay absorbed 10 to 15 minutes of pressure at the start of the second half from Montreal (1-4-1). Attinella made a quick reaction save after a miscommunication between defenders in the 65th gave the ball away. The rookie stretched wide to parry the ball over the crossbar with Montreal in prime scoring territory.
In the 74th minute, Tampa Bay got the second goal. A shot on target with Gaudette out of position was cleared off the line by the hand of Montreal midfielder Leonardo Di Lorenzo, who drew a red card. Tampa Bay was awarded a penalty kick, which Ambersley converted to go up 2-0.
With a man advantage, Tampa Bay extended its lead to 3-0 in the 84th minute when Chad Burt found Yoshitake free down the right wing. Yoshitake beat Gaudette to the ball and sent a shot into the open goal from a difficult angle next to the goal line.