It's Rowdies vs. Toros: Once more, with feeling

Ken Blankenship
Date Published: 
St. Petersburg Times


Miami and Tampa Bay, a pair of soccer teams who share a grudging measure of respect for one another, have it for the fourth time this season in a 7:30 match tonight at Tampa Stadium.

Miami's Toros (15-8) and Tampa Bay's Rowdies (17-6) clash in a North American Soccer League semifinal playoff game. To the winner goes a singular spoil: A ticket into a week from Sunday's soccer Super Bowl, the NASL championship game, at San Jose, Calif.

Tampa Bay, East Division champ, battled into the semifinal by outmuscling Toronto 1-0 Wednesday at Tampa Stadium. Miami, East runnerup and a wild card entry into the playoffs, upset North titlist Boston 2-1 in overtime in Boston Wednesday to realize tonight's arrangement.

"WE'RE GOING with our same lineup that beat Toronto," said Rowdie Coach Eddie Firmani Friday. That means 22-year-old Englishman Paul Hammond, who made perhaps the play of the entire season for Tampa Bay against the Metros, will be the goalkeeper.

Hammond made a spectacular save of a Toronto penalty kick in the second half to preserve a 1-0 lead and mentally wilt the charging Metros.

Also starting for the Rowdies will be forward Stewart Scullion, who was announced as the team's most valuable player during a press conference Friday. Scullion, who notched seven goals and seven assists despite sitting out three games with a leg injury, was the choice in balloting conducted among the players themselves, fans and news media.

Miami, which was decimated by injuries and suspensions when it was embarrassed 5-1 by the Rowdies on July 23, is at full strength with the exception of top defender Ralph Wright, who has been out several games with a broken leg.

This is the fourth meeting of the year between the Florida rivals, third at Tampa Stadium. "I'm asked what advantage there is in the home field," mused Toro Coach Greg Myers Friday. "This is third time up her in Tampa and it feels like we're playing on our home grounds."

TAMPA WON 5-1 at home and 1-0 at the Orange Bowl, sandwiched around a 2-0 Miami victory on June 11 at Tampa Stadium.

"That 2-0 victory might have been our best game of the year," said Myers. It preceded a six-game Miami losing streak which helped Tampa Bay win the East title. "we had all 11 men concentrating on playing the game, blocking out all extraneous distractions, for 90 straight minutes. You preach calmness and concentration, but it's awful hard to pull it off."

Miami ended that six-game losing streak by winning its last four games of regular season to earn a wild card berth, and then stopped Boston, overcoming intense offensive pressure exerted by the Minutemen in the overtime session.

Both squads endured extra-physical contests to survive into this semifinal round, but neither expects a repeat tonight.

"We've got too good a referee," said Firmani, speaking of Gordon Hill, one of the world's best, who will officiate tonight.

"You're not going to see a violent game, there won't be any fights," echoed Myers. "You'll see a game similar to our win here. Aggressive, but within the framework of what is ethically proper. Mr. Hill won't allow anything but that."

DESPITE THE PRESENCE of the league's 1-2 scorers, tonight's game promises to be a low-scoring defensive struggle, with both teams employing a conservative style of play.

Miami's Steve David, the league's MVP, led all scorers with 23 goals and 52 total points. Tampa Bay's Derek Smethurst tied for the No. 2 slot with 39 points, and was runnerup in goals scored with 18.

David is assisted by speedy wingmates Nico Bodonczy and Warren Archibald, who is the No. 2 alltime scorer in league history behind San Jose's Ilija Mitic. Smethurst has a supporting cast of three, including burly striker Clyde Best, who scored the goal to beat Toronto.

Best has compiled 19 points this year, Scullion 21 and forward John Sissons 18.

for the record


Miami at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m., Tampa Stadium
St. Louis at Portland
Soccer Super Bowl, Aug. 24, San Jose's Spartan Stadium

Rowdie's lineup

No. - Player - Pos.
1 Paul Hammond GK
3 Alex Pringle Def
4 John Boyle Mid
5 Malcolm Linton Def
6 Mike Connell Def
9 Clyde Best Fwd
10 Stewart Scullion Fwd
12 Derek Smethurst Fwd
13 Stewart Jump Def
14 John Sissons Fwd
15 Mark Lindsay Mid

Toros' lineup

1 Osvaldo Toriani GK
4 Esteban Aranguiz Mid
6 Nico Bodenczy Fwd
7 Steve David Fwd
8 Roberto Aguirre Def
10 Ronnie Sharp Mid
11 Warren Archibald Fwd
13 Alan Tinsley Mid
14 Olindo Guzman Def
17 Don Ries Def
19 Selris Figaro Def