By defeating Tampa Bay Thursday night, 1-0, Team America proved its ability to learn from mistakes.
Team America suffered its worst loss of the season to the Rowdies a week ago, 3-1, because it failed to tightly mark Tampa Bay's quick front line. Given room to maneuver, forwards Luis Fernando, Tatu and Manny Rojas each scored a goal and tested Team America goalie Paul Hammond repeatedly.
But Team America negated any chance of a second Rowdies' rout Thursday by aggressively meeting Tampa Bay's offense at midfield and physically forcing the Rowdie players from the ball. Team America was called for a team record 37 fouls and three yellow cards, and has 67 fouls in its last two games.
But Team America defender Dan Canter, who was assessed four fouls, feels physical play is essential against quicker teams like the Rowdies.
"Fernando and Tatu had too much space in Tampa Bay," said Canter. "But they played right into our hands Thursday. They lost their tempers and the tempo of the game. Tampa Bay should have ignored us and just kept on playing."
The win moves Team America from last to first place in the NASL's Southern Division with a 5-4 record and 35 points. Tampa Bay, which had been in first place, fell to 3-7 and is in second place with 32 points.
Team America's aggressive play, which left many of the Rowdie players whining about rough tactics, also left many looking like accident victims. Fernando was removed at the half after suffering a groin pull on a sliding tackle from Jeff Durgan, and Franz Gerber required 10 stitches to close a wound under his right eye.
Hammond also played well in goal for Team America. He made seven saves, including a game-saving stop on Tatu from point-blank range with 4:52 remaining. He also disrupted Tampa Bay's passing game by picking off seven crosses.
Team America's goal came on a redirection header by Hayden Knight off a corner kick by Pedro DeBrito at 21:57.
Knight, playing in his first game after suffering a broken foot in the preseason, performed well as the defensive midfielder, attempting four shots and marking Fernando closely.
Team America has scored only nine goals all season, third lowest in the league.