ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay had anticipated another crack at Puerto Rico since a June 9 loss to the Islanders, the only team in the NASL the Rowdies hadn't collected points against entering Saturday's game.
The Rowdies had to wait an extra hour and 23 minutes because of a thunderstorm over Al Lang Field.
And like previous matchups, Tampa Bay controlled the majority of possessions and sent several well-struck shots at Puerto Rico goalkeeper Richard Martin.
But unlike prior meetings, the Rowdies finally penetrated the goal. Captain Frankie Sanfilippo produced the first score in the 72nd minute and Mike Ambersley added another score in the 85th in a 2-0 Rowdies victory in front of 3,207.
Tampa Bay (9-6-3, 30 points) moved into second place in the league, two points behind San Antonio, which defeated Fort Lauderdale 1-0 Saturday.
"It's great to beat Puerto Rico," coach Ricky Hill said. "It's great to beat any team in this league. Three points are valuable, we realize that. Puerto Rico is a top side, and they've proven that for many years. We're happy to win on this occasion."
Sanfilippo's winner came after both teams struggled to find scoring opportunities early in the second half. Ambersley gathered a loose ball in the Islanders' half and crossed into the box toward the far post. Sanfilippo, charging hard toward the goal, ran under the pass and volleyed a right-footer past Martin.
"My eyes just lit up, and I one-timed it," Sanfilippo said of his first goal of the season. "As a defender you don't get that many opportunities to score."
The Rowdies put the game away with Ambersley's fifth goal of the season. Second-half substitute Fafa Picault crossed a pass to a wide open Ambersley. With Martin scrambling to get back in goal, Ambersley rolled a shot into the back of the net.
Tampa Bay hadn't beaten the Islanders since their first-ever meeting, May 29, 2010 at Steinbrenner Field. The Rowdies have won six of their past seven overall and four straight at Al Lang.
Tampa Bay goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, a former USF and Countryside High standout, had two saves, both in the first half, to earn his fifth shutout of the season and second in two games.
Puerto Rico was missing starting forwards David Foley and leading scorer Nicholas Addlery because of injury. The Rowdies were without leading scorer Tsuyoshi Yoshitake because of a red-card suspension.