ST. PETERSBURG — FC Tampa Bay hasn't squandered too many opportunities during its run of quality play.
Against Puerto Rico, though, Tampa Bay let a positive result slip out of its grasp on a rain-kissed pitch Saturday night at Al Lang Field.
Unbeaten in its previous four and winners of five of its previous seven coming in, Tampa Bay played with poise and purpose against the NASL's second-place team.
Mike Ambersley gave Tampa Bay a lead in the 30th minute with his team-leading 10th goal of the season.
But Puerto Rico equalized three minutes later, and the Islanders went ahead in the 75th minute on a remarkable individual effort from midfielder David Foley to escape with a 2-1 victory.
"That's the frustrating part, that we didn't get anything for all the hard work and effort the players put in," Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill said. "For the majority of the game, I was very pleased with how they played the game."
Kickoff was delayed 35 minutes because of lightning, but the late start did little to dampen a highly charged, entertaining game for 2,965 fans attending.
Tampa Bay (8-7-7, 31 points) grabbed control of a back-and-forth game after a tenacious effort from Ambersley led to the first score. The forward took a pass on the edge of the 18-yard box and tried to slip a pass in the middle for Aaron King. The pass was deflected and played backward to a Puerto Rico defender.
But Ambersley kept the play alive by chasing down the pass and pressuring the ball. A slight bobble from the defender was all Ambersley needed, and he slid an outstretched shot past Puerto Rico goalkeeper Ray Burse for a 1-0 advantage.
"Their centerback kind of bobbled it and made a mess of it, and I just tried to bounce on it," Ambersley said. "I got lucky, and it came right to me."
Puerto Rico (12-5-5, 41 points) tied it almost immediately. In the 33rd minute, a cross from the right wing was deflected in the box, and Islanders forward Nick Addlery was waiting on the back post to one-time a volley into goal.
Puerto Rico pushed ahead in the 75th minute on a bit of skill from Foley coupled with a breakdown in the Tampa Bay defense. On a counter, Foley dribbled the length of the field with two defenders in front. Nearing the edge of the box, Foley faked a shot with his right foot, slid the ball on his left foot to maneuver past the befuddled defense and finished.
"Somebody's got to engage higher up the field," Hill said. "We can't let someone just run at us, and we can't backpedal for an eternity."
Tampa Bay had opportunities to tie the score and earn a point late but failed to convert. Substitute Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, deep in the box, crossed across the goalmouth for Kerry Baptiste, who made his first appearance in a Tampa Bay jersey this season. But the pass was too far in front of Baptiste's outstretched leg. In stoppage time, Keith Savage got a clean look at goal but blistered a shot inches high.
Bryan Burns can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.