NASL 4th of July Action
On the 4th of July holiday, the Tampa Bay Rowdies won their fourth successive match, defeating the Fort Lauderdale Strikers 3-1. The Minnesota Stars uncorked four goals in shutting down the Puerto Rico Islanders at home, while the San Antonio Scorpions increased their first-place NASL lead to four points over the Islanders by winning 1-0 over FC Edmonton before over 9,000 fans at Heroes Field. On Tuesday, Carolina’s Nick Zimmerman scored a brace to ruin Eric Wynalda’s coaching debut with the Atlanta Scorpions by a 2-1 score.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-1 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
The Tampa Bay Rowdies won the third installment of the 2012 NASL Florida derby on the 4th of July, defeating the Fort Lauderdale Strikers 3-1. All three matches between the two teams this year have featured that same 3-1 scoreline, with the Rowdies now having won two of the three. The victory, before a crowd of over 4,700 at Al Lang Stadium, was the fourth in succession for the surging Tampa Bay team.
The visiting Strikers, coming off two wins in their last three contests fueled by their hot attacker, Mark Anderson, drew first blood when former Chicago Fire striker Andy Herron scored in the 19th minute, but held that lead barely ten minutes when Mike Ambersley tallied for the Rowdies. The first half ended drawn 1-1, with Tampa Bay having a slight edge in shots and corner kicks.
But it was the Rowdies own man on fire, Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, who scored the game winner 20 minutes into the second half. Assisted by forward Daniel Antoniuk, who’d just been inserted into the game by the Rowdies’ coach Ricky Hill, Fort Lauderdale could not get back into the contest as the minutes drifted away. Antoniuk scored an insurance goal in the 85th minute, on a play started by Yoshitake, whose pass led Ambersley deep to the left of the Fort Lauderdale goal. Ambersley’s left-footed low cross set a perfect table for Antoniuk to score the sitter, giving the Rowdies a perfect nine points in their three-game homestand.
Yoshitake has scored five goals in the Rowdies win streak, including two game winners. The 30-year-old midfielder, from the Mie Prefecture of Japan, has been playing in the U.S. since 2009, and his quality reflects the rising quality of Japanese soccer over the last decade, as the Japanese National Team has advanced from the group stage in two of the last three World Cups. Teammate Takuya Yamada, also a native of Japan, had a strong match on defense Wednesday for the Rowdies, as Daryl Shore’s Strikers could only manage a goal despite seven combined shots by Herron and Anderson.
The Rowdies will get a bit of a breather as they don’t play again until Thursday, July 12th when they meet the Stars in Minnesota. They will be without defender JP Rodrigues, who will sit out because of his red card ejection late in Wednesday’s match. The Strikers, meanwhile, will lick their wounds and look to bounce back with a positive result this Saturday in Carolina.
San Antonio Scorpions 1-0 FC Edmonton
The San Antonio Scorpions got a firmer grip on the top spot in the NASL table by defeating FC Edmonton Wednesday evening. The Scorpions’ Esteban Bayona’s fourth goal of the season was the game-winner.
Minnesota Stars FC 4-0 Puerto Rico Islanders
The Stars big win over the Islanders helped them keep pace with the hot Rowdies, leaving Minnesota only a point behind Tampa Bay in the NASL standings. The win also built up the Stars’ goal differential, which is +4 following their holiday victory.