TAMPA — The first time the Rowdies and Minnesota met, a 1-0 Rowdies loss on April 24, Rowdies coach Paul Dalglish thought his team was unfortunate to leave without a point.
The Rowdies sent wave after wave of attack at the Minnesota goal but couldn't score.
Thursday, in the rematch in front of 3,886 at Steinbrenner Field, the Rowdies needed just six minutes for their first goal.
That opened the floodgates.
The Rowdies scored three times in the first half and kept the Stars from threatening in the second to win 3-1 and extend their unbeaten streak to six games, the longest current streak in the U.S. Soccer Federation Division 2.
"The main thing is we wanted to jump on them right away because they don't play in a hot climate," said Rowdies forward Aaron Wheeler, who converted a penalty kick in the 20th minute for the second goal after being taken down in the box by Minnesota goalkeeper Joe Warren.
"As soon as we got the one, we smelled blood."
For the third game in a row, the Rowdies (4-1-3) put a trio of goals on the scoreboard, a welcome sight for them after scoring twice in the season's first three games.
"I just think we're a different team now," Dalglish said. "We're much more ruthless when we get in attacking areas. We're much sharper. We're much more game-ready now. Anybody gives us a half-chance and we can punish them with the attacking options that we've got."
Midfielder Gordon Kljestan struck first for the Rowdies. He drilled a low liner to beat Warren to his right after midfielder Long Tan laid the ball off to him at the top of the 18.
Tan again helped set up a score 14 minutes later by sending Wheeler toward goal with a long ball over the top. Wheeler beat Warren to the pass in the box and was awarded a penalty shot after the goalie tripped Wheeler with his hand.
The Rowdies opened a three-goal lead in the 26th minute when Kljestan corralled a Minnesota clear attempt and floated a pass to Tan on the right side of goal, and Tan beat Warren to the near post.
Midfielder Daniel Wasson got a goal back for Minnesota (2-7-1) in the 38th minute on a free kick from 25 yards out. But the Stars found precious few scoring opportunities against the Rowdies defense and the play of goalkeeper Daryl Sattler, who made two diving one-handed saves to keep the Stars off the scoreboard between the Rowdies' second and third goal.
"The second half was pretty ugly, but I don't think (Minnesota) had a shot that they should have scored from," Dalglish said.
With the win, the Rowdies keep pace with USL Conference leader Austin (17 points), which defeated Miami on Wednesday. The Rowdies are two points out of first place with 15.