FORT LAUDERDALE — FC Tampa Bay began a four-game trip, its longest of the season, just the way it wanted.
Forwards Aaron King and Mike Ambersley scored as Tampa Bay beat Fort Lauderdale 2-0 in front of 3,685 Saturday at Lockhart Stadium.
With five games left in the regular season, Tampa Bay (9-7-7) remains in third place in the NASL with 34 points, behind Carolina (51) and Puerto Rico (44). Six of the league's eight teams reach the postseason.
"We are very happy that we managed to take three points (Saturday night)," Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill said. "We weren't spectacular in terms of our performance, but (we got) a hard-worked three points."
In the ninth minute, King scored his eighth goal of the season for a 1-0 edge. Tampa Bay has tallied at least one first-half goal in 10 straight games and scored first in six straight games.
Midfielder Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, starting for injured Pascal Millien (Achilles'), moved down the left wing before passing to Ambersley, who picked up his fifth assist to tie Millien for the team lead.
"It was a very nice buildup, and the cross from Yoshi was excellent," Hill said. "I was pleased to then see the two forwards combine together, as they have continued to create opportunities for each other."
In the 77th minute, Ambersley put Tampa Bay ahead 2-0 after catching Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser out of position. Ambersley has 11 goals, best on the team and second in the league.
"Mike had a beautiful finish and tucked the ball into the corner of the goal," Hill said. "It came at a crucial time to give us a two-goal cushion and kind of deflate the Strikers slightly."
Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, a former USF and Countryside High standout, made four saves in earning his fourth shutout of the season and the team's seventh overall.
"Jeff was very good … in managing his box, handling corners and making the saves when called upon," Hill said.
Tampa Bay claimed the season series and the Coastal Cup for the second straight year with two wins and a tie against the Strikers (6-7-10, 28 points). The teams meet at 7 p.m. Sept. 24, the final day of the regular season, at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg.
The Strikers had a chance to make a move on the league's front-runners but came up short. The lost their second straight, and they have gone scoreless for 191 consecutive minutes.
"This was disappointing," coach Daryl Shore said. "We had some chances and didn't finish. We were beat by a better team."
The loss leaves the Strikers three points ahead of Montreal (6-10-7, 25 points) for the final playoff spot with five games left. The Strikers host Montreal on Saturday.
"We have put ourselves in a hole here," Shore said. "We'll find out what we're about next week."
Information from the South Florida Sun Sentinel was used in this report.