ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay entered Saturday's match against Minnesota having won its two previous contests in a thrilling, come-from-behind fashion.
A positive result against the Stars proved much easier to come by.
Rowdies forward Mike Ambersley scored on a well-placed header in the 55th minute, and Tsuyoshi Yoshitake continued his blistering pace, tallying his third goal in three games to lead Tampa Bay to a 2-0 win in front of 2,594 at Al Lang Field.
The victory gives the Rowdies (6-5-3) their first three-match win streak of the season heading into Wednesday's Fourth of July showdown against rival Fort Lauderdale. It also puts the Rowdies in sole possession of third place in the North American Soccer League.
"I couldn't be more delighted with the effort of the players in the last month and, generally, throughout the season, but particularly in the last month," Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill said. "There's been an intensity and a seriousness to their work every day."
Unlike the previous meeting against Minnesota at Al Lang, a dull affair with little offense, Saturday's back-and-forth match featured plenty of scoring opportunities. In the 26th minute, the Stars' Miguel Ibarra rocketed a shot from 30 yards away that smacked off the crossbar. Seven minutes later, Ambersley had a point-blank header on the back post that was pushed aside by Minnesota goalkeeper Matt VanOekel (10 saves).
It wasn't until early in the second half, however, that either side could break through.
In the 55th minute, Luke Mulholland sent a right-footed cross into the box for Ambersley, who was unmarked in front of the goal. Ambersley's header rolled toward the far post and past VanOekel for a 1-0 lead.
"We took control early in the second half, and that was a big part of the game right there, kind of shifted momentum," Ambersley said. "And then we got the goal. That was big for us."
After withstanding intense pressure from Minnesota's attack, the Rowdies put the game away with Yoshitake's goal in the 88th minute. Midfielder Keith Savage played a long ball through for Yoshitake to start a two-on-two break. With Ambersley streaking toward the goal on his right, Yoshitake opted to shoot himself, sending a blast from the left wing inside the far post.
"It was good to get a comfortable win under our belt," Tampa Bay goalkeeper Jeff Attinella said. "The last two have been kind of a little nerve-racking. When (Yoshitake) put that second one in, it was kind of a weight lifted off our shoulders."
Attinella, a Clearwater native and Countryside High graduate, had four stops to finish with his third shutout of the season.