ST. PETERSBURG — As a child, Matt Clare had a front-row vantage point for the Rowdies' grudge matches with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, cheering his father, John, a Strikers defender during the rivalry's heyday.
On Saturday, the younger Clare, now a Rowdies forward, added his name to Rowdies-Strikers lore and helped to continue Tampa Bay's recent mastery of the Strikers in league play.
Clare, who lived in Fort Lauderdale before moving when he was 10, scored the first goal against the Strikers. When the game was over, a spirited crowd of 3,536 at Al Lang Field had watched the Rowdies put three in the back of the net in a 3-1 win.
"To put multiple goals against a good back four like that is very good," Clare said. "It's going to build a lot of confidence."
Since returning in 2010, the Rowdies are 5-0-4 in league matches against the Strikers.
Clare's goal came in the 27th minute on a cross from Keith Savage. The midfielder sent a pass from the right edge of the box onto the back post, where Clare put a shot past goalkeeper Matt Glaeser (five saves).
"I saw the defender start to squeeze in a little bit because the ball was on the far side," Clare said. "So I made my run, I checked in, and I just pulled out behind him. Keith played a great ball."
The Rowdies (2-1-2) withstood an early second-half push by the Strikers and went ahead 2-0 after Luke Mulholland was pulled down in the penalty box. Mike Ambersley took the resulting penalty kick in the 62nd minute and scored his first goal of the season after leading Tampa Bay with 11 a year ago.
"Mike's a quality player; we're glad that he's got that first one," coach Ricky Hill said. "We're hoping that's going to kick start him to get more and more."
The Strikers got a goal back in the 90th minute when Walter Restrepo was unmarked in front of goalkeeper Jeff Attinella (six saves) and headed a pass into the net.
Savage added an insurance score in stoppage time on the final play, one-timing a pass from Ambersley into an open goal after Ambersley had gotten behind the Strikers defense and maneuvered around Glaeser.
"It was kind of frantic there for a minute the way it has been," Savage said, "but to put it away, even if it was the last few seconds, was a relief."