Third Installment of the “Florida Derby”; FC Tampa Bay vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers Match Preview
A lot more than bragging rights are at stake this Saturday in South Florida. FC Tampa Bay travels to Lockhart Stadium to take on the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers for the third time this season. The first match earlier in the year ended in a 1 – 1 tie. FC Tampa Bay will be trying to keep a three-point lead over one of their fiercest rivals while the Strikers will be trying to gain points in order to climb in the standings. Third place FC Tampa Bay has a three-point lead over 6th place Fort Lauderdale with six matches to play. The three points which separate both teams shows how competitive the league has become in recent weeks. One or two bad results could leave either team in a precarious situation.
For FC Tampa Bay, who have earned ten points in their previous five matches, Mike Ambersley leads the club with 10 goals and 1825 minutes played. Ambersley plays well in Ricky Hill’s 4-4-2 formation. Partnered up top with Warren Ukah, Ambersley is able to drop back in the space created and receive service from the midfield. Ambersley’s play is a big reason why his team has climbed in the standings.
Assisting in the attack is Pascal Millien, a wide midfielder who uses his pace to create troubling match-ups for opposing teams. Millien leads the team with five assists.
The Strikers prefer to employ a defensive mentality. Goalkeeper Matt Glaeser allows an average of 0.99 goals per game. This ranks him amongst the league leaders in that category.
Some players have had to play out of their normal position because of injuries or retirement. In attack, Brian Shriver is second on the team with 4 goals and most shots with 37. The Strikers have earned ten points from their previous five matches.
In the days leading up to the match, Martyn Lancaster was asked a few questions in regards to the team’s performance and how this rivalry matches up with other derbies in his professional career.
AD: What are your thoughts about the Strikers versus Tampa Bay/Rowdies rivalry?
ML: No question it’s a big rivalry. I’ve played in England and Scotland and this one is right up there in terms of standard of play. One of the biggest derbies I took part in earlier in my career was between my team, Chester City, and Wrexham. These teams have a lot of history between been each other which has played out over the last 20 to 30 years. Also our position in the standings with so few games left in the season adds another element to Saturday’s match. We need points to ensure we get ourselves into the playoffs and possibly get to be ahead of Tampa. Both teams are playing very well as of late. This is a big game and we’re ready to play.
AD: You’ve been asked to play as a central defender this season. You started the season at right back. How has the transition been thus far?
ML: We’ve had injuries to team captain Aaron Hohlbein and with the retirement of Zach Kirby, we were a little short in the centerback position. I’ve played centerback earlier in my career and it’s a position I am familiar with. Once Coach Shore asked if I would consider a move to that position and I obliged. Sometimes you have to make a sacrifice but it all about playing for the team. It’s important for us to play well defensively and allow as few goals as possible. We take pride in keeping clean sheets.
AD: You’ve played in clubs like Chester City who unfortunately were dissolved. They have since been revived by fans. What are your thoughts about clubs which are now owned by supporters?
ML: I take interest in all of my former clubs. I look for their results on Saturdays. It’s great supporters are passionate about the game and have taken it upon themselves to keep clubs going. Chester FC has bounced back including getting promoted last season. Hopefully, they’ll move on to bigger and better things. If they can keep their finances under control they should be able to drive forward into the football league.
AD: How do you feel this season has unfolded for you as a player and for the team?
ML: The NASL season is short. Therefore it’s important to get points early on. Unfortunately we didn’t do that at the start of the season. After results don’t go your way you end up at the wrong end of the table. We’ve started to pick up points in the last month or so and we’ve progressed quite nicely. The team has gelled and it’s important to play consistently.
Although he has only been playing in South Florida for two seasons, Lancaster continues to show why he is a favorite amongst “Striker Likers.” The Englishman’s workmanlike performances all season have been pleasant to say the least.
All eight NASL teams will be in action on Saturday night. Strikers management is expecting one of, if not, the biggest crowd of the season. The atmosphere will definitely be electric and should be considered a “must-see” for every fan of the league. The match may be a preview of things to come as these two teams will play again but this time in St. Petersburg on the last day of the regular season.