ST. PETERSBURG — FC Tampa Bay improved in one area in the first half of its match against Atlanta on Saturday, giving itself substantially more scoring chances than in previous games.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, those chances did not result in any goals. To make matters worse, starting keeper Daryl Sattler sustained a knee injury 10 minutes into the game.
Still, Mike Ambersley provided some rare offense, and Tampa Bay salvaged a 1-1 tie in front of a rowdy crowd of 3,021 at Progress Energy Park.
"It's good to see the ball hit the back of the net to build some confidence," said Ambersley, who tied for sixth in the league with nine goals last season for St. Louis.
"I know I needed that, so it's good to get one in, and I know there will be more to come."
Ambersley scored shortly before the 84-minute mark. Pascal Millien stole the ball just past midfield in front of Atlanta's bench, then weaved through traffic and found Aaron King, who flicked a pass to Ambersley in the box. Ambersley easily placed the ball under the outstretched arms of Atlanta keeper Felipe Quintero.
Tampa Bay (1-1-2) scored its second goal of the season to move out of last place in the NASL in that category. Coach Ricky Hill said his team still needs to make better use of its opportunities.
Tampa Bay finished with 20 shots, 12 in the second half to Atlanta's 10, and had a 12-1 advantage in corner kicks.
"I felt there were good signs, particularly with Ambersley receiving the ball and bringing people into the game, Pascal likewise, and Chad Burt on the right," Hill said.
"But overall I'm still looking for a better cutting edge to our game, a more clinical kind of style whereby we understand where we are on the pitch at all given times and what we can do with the ball.
"I'm standing here talking about … chances that we're either spurning or not taking enough time or care or appreciation for others. Little things that amount to big things, we have to do better with our execution."
Sattler was replaced in goal by Jeff Attinella, who made his professional debut.
Tampa Bay, the NASL's most difficult team to score on, allowed Atlanta to take a 1-0 lead less than 30 seconds before halftime on a header by Willie Hunt off an arcing cross from Mario Perez.
Attinella, of USF and Countryside High, finished with three saves. He could make his first start when Tampa Bay hosts Carolina on Saturday.
Hill said Sattler's status would be determined after further examination Monday.