ST. PETERSBURG -
FC Tampa Bay saved its best game of the season for its biggest game of the season to this point, beating the rival Fort Lauderdale Strikers 4-2 Monday night in front of 4,248 fans at Al Lang Stadium, the largest crowd of the year.
"The crowd always supports us tremendously," FC Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill said. "I'm sure the players appreciate that. I certainly do and I'm just grateful that we could give them a victory on the Fourth of July."
Haitian winger Pascal Millien stole the show, scoring a goal and assisting on two others.
Millien set up the opening goal with a corner kick in the 15th minute that found the head of a waiting Andres Arango on the back post. Arango put the ball past Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser for his first goal of the season. After the goal, Millien organized his teammates to salute the crowd.
"This is the game I love," Millien said. "You have to have fun playing it. (The crowd) helped us a lot. We have incredible fans. I give them a lot of credit."
After the 23rd minute, a lightning strike close to the stadium suspended the game for 59 minutes.
After the teams returned to the field to finish the first half, Strikers midfielder Eduardo Coudet evened the score on a penalty kick conceded by a handball committed by Kwame Watson-Siriboe.
FC Tampa Bay (4-5-5, 17 points) used second-half goals from Millien in the 55th minute and forward Aaron King in the 63rd to open a 3-1 lead.
Fort Lauderdale (3-9-3, 17 points) pegged back a goal through Mike Palacio in the 68th minute before FC Tampa Bay put the game away with a Mike Ambersley goal in the 71st minute, snapping Fort Lauderdale's seven-game unbeaten streak.
Ambersley leads the team with seven goals.
FC Tampa Bay 4, Fort Lauderdale 2
Up next: FC Tampa Bay at Puerto Rico, Saturday, 8:05 p.m.