Friday, February 23, 2018
Sports

Tampa Bay Rowdies stay hot, top Edmonton 1-0

ST. PETERSBURG — Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good.

Of late, the Rowdies have been both.

Tampa Bay turned in what coach Ricky Hill called a "sloppy" effort Saturday night against Edmonton considering the team's recent torrid play.

Yet the Rowdies won 1-0 for their seventh victory in eight matches and fifth straight at Al Lang Field. They were never really threatened by a team sitting next-to-last in the eight-team NASL standings.

"It's nice to win when you're not a full throttle as an offensive group, as a ball-retention group," Hill said. "Our possession game wasn't as great as it has been in recent times."

Against Edmonton, it didn't matter. The Rowdies (10-6-3, 33 points) scored their goal in the 44th minute on a fortuitous bounce after Edmonton (4-10-4, 16 points) won the ball near midfield and tried a pass forward that hit the referee in the back.

Tampa Bay's Luke Mulholland controlled the loose ball and advanced it with a pass to Mike Ambersley near the Edmonton goal. Ambersley lifted a well-placed cross into the box for hard-charging Daniel Antoniuk, who jumped high above his marker to head the ball cleanly past goalkeeper John Smits (seven saves).

The goal was Antoniuk's sixth of the season, tying him with Tsuyoshi Yoshitake for the team lead. Ambersley, with his team-leading seventh assist, has recorded a point in six straight games (three goals, five assists).

"It was a great ball," Antoniuk said of Ambersley's pass. "He put a little curl on it. He didn't crack it in there really hard and whip it so hard, but he put a nice curl on it where it was just me and the other guy who could win that ball."

Jeff Attinella (eight saves) earned his third shutout in a row, the longest streak of his professional career, though some of the credit for Saturday's clean sheet belongs to midfielder Stuart Campbell.

In the 31st minute, Edmonton nearly broke through against the Rowdies for the first time this season. Attinella punched away a corner kick and the rebound landed at the feet of Paul Hamilton, who sent a well-struck, right-footed shot at the open goal. But Campbell was there to head the ball off the line and over the goal at the last moment.

"If that would have gone in, it would have changed the outcome of the game," said Attinella, a former USF and Countryside High star. "That's big-time from (Campbell). That's why he's one of the leaders of our team."

The Rowdies, who next play next Saturday at Carolina, haven't been scored on since a 2-1 loss at Minnesota on July 12, a stretch of 315 minutes without giving up a goal.

A crowd of 3,149 was announced. The Rowdies are 3-0 against Edmonton this season, winning all three 1-0.

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