FC Tampa Bay is hitting its stride at the right time.
In a late-season push for playoff positioning, the home team scored goals in each half to come away with a 2-0 victory against the NSC Minnesota Stars (7-7-6) in sloppy playing conditions at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night.
"There's a camaraderie that's building and growing," said FC Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill, whose team finished a three-game stretch in eight days with seven points. "They feel good about themselves. They feel good about each other. They have a belief that when they step on the field that they expect not to be beaten."
And they haven't, for the most part. After Saturday's win, FC Tampa Bay (8-6-7) has just one defeat in its past 10 matches and moved into sole possession of third place (top six teams make playoffs) in the NASL standings with 30 points, two ahead of the team it just beat (although Minnesota has played one less game).
Helping FC Tampa Bay's cause was midfielder Pascal Millien, who scored a spectacular goal just before halftime. He found himself with some space, dribbled to his right just outside the 18-yard box and squared up a shot, which found the top right corner of the goal to give FC Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.
"This one, as a second-year professional, was one of the best," Millien said. "To score one like that today, I'm going to keep watching that every day."
FC Tampa Bay then got an insurance goal when a Minnesota defender deflected a shot by Frankie Sanfilippo into his own net in the 65th minute. It was scored as Sanfilippo's first goal of the season.
Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella had seven saves, including a few diving stops in the first half to keep Minnesota off the board.
"Jeff was superb for us," Hill said.
Of FC Tampa Bay's seven remaining games, two are against Minnesota.
FC Tampa Bay has a chance to make up more ground in the standings as its next game is against the second-place Puerto Rico Islanders at 7 p.m. Saturday.
FC TAMPA BAY 2, NSC MINNESOTA 0
FC TAMPA BAY 2,
NSC MINNESOTA 0
Up next: Puerto Rico Islanders at FC Tampa Bay, Saturday, 7 p.m.