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As Mike Ambersley Goes, So Goes FC Tampa Bay

2011 September 8
by Brian Quarstad

The Rowdies have now scored 18 goals in their last 9 games and are heading into the playoffs on a tear.

Mike Ambersley may look young but the FC Tampa Bay player is a weathered veteran who’s been playing professionally since 2006. He was drafted by FC Dallas in the MLS SuperDraft. But life as a pro has not always been easy for the former Indiana Hoosier who was released by Dallas that same spring. Over the next 6 seasons Ambersley would play for 5 different teams.

Finally, the 28-year-old Ambersley has seen personal success the past two seasons. Some of that may be attributed to maturity but it certainly hasn’t hurt that he has stayed relatively healthy during that time. This year he’s logged minutes consistently with Tampa Bay and currently sits 9th overall in the league for minutes played with 2005. But a healthy Ambersley has not always been the case as the midfielder/forward had his share of struggles.

After playing the 2006 and 2007 seasons with the Rochester Rhinos and seeing 32 matches in 2 seasons with only 4 goals, Ambersley signed a contract with the Atlanta Silverbacks in 2008. While in preseason training, he went down with a season long knee injury. He returned to the Rochester Rhinos in 2009 but his comeback was slow. He made 20 appearances but scored only 2 goals.

In 2010, the St. Louis native signed a contract with the short-lived AC St. Louis team who were making an effort to sign local talent. Staying relatively injury free, Ambersley started living up to his potential, playing most of the season as an attacking midfielder and sometimes forward, he played in 23 games and scored 9 goals.

This year he is having even more success and not just individually, but collectively with his team. Currently he is tied with the RailHawks’ Pablo Campos and the Islanders’ Jonathan FaƱa for 2nd most goals scored in the NASL with 11.

Ambersley’s team, FC Tampa Bay, clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday evening with a win over the Minnesota Stars. While Ambersley did not score, his team still managed 2 away goals for the victory. In fact the Rowdies are now 3rd in the league for goals scored with 38. So it’s no surprise they have also climbed to 3rd in the NASL standings. What makes those numbers significant is Tampa had a slow start and struggled for goals early on. In their first two months of play the Rowdies scored only 7 goals in 9 games and were lingering towards the bottom of the standings with 2 wins, 3 loses and 4 draws.

Tampa are now living up to the preseason predictions of a high-flying offense. Ambersley’s success has helped his FC Tampa Bay teammates to also enjoy positive score lines and goals netted. The Rowdies have now scored 18 goals in their last 9 games and are heading into the playoffs on a tear.

After Tuesday night’s victory over Minnesota, which Ambersley called “ugly,” he claimed he didn’t care if he scored because his teammates had stepped up and gotten the job done and that’s all that mattered. He says the group’s slow start was not altogether unexpected although it was frustrating at times.

“I think more than anything it was just a new group,” said Ambersley. “We have seven new starters from last year’s team and I’m a new player on the team as well. So going into the season, defensively you knew we were going to be ahead of where we’d be offensively. We were just getting used to each other. After about 6 or 7 games we really started gelling and understanding what each player was going to do on and off the ball. You learn tendencies after playing with someone for a couple of months and that makes a big difference.”

“It was frustrating in the beginning but we knew it would come sooner or later because we just have too many good players on this team.”

Those “good players” will next play host to the same Stars team they saw Tuesday evening. But they will have to wait until Saturday, September 17th, as the team has a week off. FCTB will be shooting for another win to remain in the 3rd position in the NASL standings for seeding and home field advantage in the playoffs. FC Edmonton will play the Strikers this weekend at home and are only a point off from FCTB.

5 Responses
  1. Nicholas Murray permalink
    September 9, 2011

    Ambersley’s been really good for most of the season, but I think things really started to click with him and the team overall when Aaron King got introduced to the starting line-up.

    They have really combined well and developed a good understanding, as illustrated by their five assists apiece, which has made them the second-highest points-scoring duo in the league with 48 points, behind Carolina’s Barbara and Campos (72) and ahead of Puerto Rico’s Fana and Foley (43).

  2. September 9, 2011

    A good understanding between strike partners should not be underestimated.

  3. FCTB Supporter permalink
    September 9, 2011

    I agree with Nick. Ambersley has played really well this season and is very comfortable on the ball. He gets in good spaces and his work rate is top. But take away his PKs (I believe he has 2 or 3), he has exact same statistics as King, yet King has almost 700 minutes (or 7.5 games) less on the field as Ambserley. They have formed a great partnership in a 4-4-2 which lacked last season and I think plays to each of their strengths. Lets see if they can continue as they fight for the #3 spot and into the playoffs.

  4. jersey joe permalink
    September 19, 2011

    If you watched the Carolina game a couple weeks ago, you all would know how important Ambersley is to this team. They looked like a PDL team without him. No movement, no work ethic, and no creativity just to name a few. You could make an arguement that he is the single most important player to his team than any player in the league. Tampa had no chance of scoring a goal without him in Carolina. He creates so much for everyone else on his team with his passing and vision and movement not to mention he can score if he needs to.

    Ambersley missed the first 7 games of the 2010 season for AC St. Louis….they went 0-7. He played the remaining games and they ended up with 7 or 8 wins plus 2 wins in the open cup. They might have lost every single game if he wasn’t on that team.

    King is a pretty average player, yes he can score goals but to say he is the reason this team went on a roll is pure stupidity and a lack of understanding the game. Go back and watch the 2 or 3 games Ambersley didn’t play in this year. The first 2 games and the Carolina game. There’s no doubt in my mind that they would be in 7th 0r 8th place without him. If Ambersley didn’t have to drop into the midfield to get the ball he could score 15-20 goals, but Tampa Bay just doesn’t have the midfield players that can create for the forwards. Therefore they ask him to do everything and he does it better than anyone in the league.

  5. yankiboy permalink
    September 20, 2011

    ^Nice take, JJ. Thanks for the St. Louis nugget and an adiitional perspective.

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