Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Carolina RailHawks Presented by The Tampa Bay Times
Tickets are still available by calling (813) 287-1539 or click here. The box office at the stadium opens at 4:30 p.m. on gameday.
Tampa Bay: 2-5-0, 11 points, 2nd place
Atlanta: 2-4-1, 10 points, 5th place
The first meeting in the Fall Season played to a 1-1 draw at Atlanta Silverbacks Park, while both teams came away from the Spring Season with one win each. While the Rowdies dropped the first match at Al Lang Stadium in April, they would win in Atlanta on June 22. Overall, the Rowdies have lost twice since their first meeting in 2011 and have posted a 4-5-2 overall record.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies continued their unbeaten run after a 1-1 draw against the Silverbacks on August 31st in Atlanta, Ga. Forward Pedro Mendes scored the lone goal of the first half after his well-placed strike from outside the 18-yard box got past Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo. The Rowdies would equalize the match in the early minutes of the second half thanks to a goal from the penalty spot by forward Georgi Hristov.
The 2-2 draw against the RailHawks last weekend extended the undefeated run to a club-record nine matches, breaking the previous mark that was set in October of 2012. In that opportunity, Tampa Bay had finished the regular season on a six-game unbeaten run, while a win and a draw in the NASL Semifinals would extend it to eight matches.
Tampa Bay is currently in second place and is still the only undefeated team in the NASL Fall Season. Although the Rowdies lead the league with 15 goals this season, having given up 11 goals has affected how many wins the team has picked up. During the nine-game unbeaten run, Tampa Bay has won four matches and drawn five.
Midfielder Evans Frimpong has scored two goals in his last two matches, benefiting from the new 4-3-3 formation that Head Coach Ricky Hill has implemented. The Ghanaian midfielder plays up top alongside Hristov, who leads the club with nine goals, and newcomer Lucky Mkosana. From Zimbabwe, Lucky has yet to score a goal in his two matches with the Rowdies, but it is his pace and off-the-ball movements that have proven to positively shake up the offense. He provided an offensive spark in his first match with the Rowdies on September 7 against the RailHawks, producing the build up in the game-winning own goal by Carolina's Paul Hamilton.
Although the Silverbacks are in fifth place, they are only two points from first-placed New York. They are coming off a 2-1 win over the Scorpions, where midfielder Danny Barrera and forward Ruben Luna propelled the home team to victory. Barrera currently leads the league in assists with seven, just one more than Hristov. With Luna returning to the Silverbacks just several weeks ago, the 2013 Spring Season Champions gained back their most prominent goal scorer and it showed last week.
Atlanta’s defense is led by goalkeeper Joe Nasco, who has allowed the least amount of goals in the NASL Fall Season. Having only received seven goals in his last eight matches, he has been crucial in the Silverbacks recent success which included winning the NASL Spring Season.
Rowdies Head Coach Ricky Hill
"We know Atlanta already has their ticket to the Soccer Bowl, but that does not mean we should come out on Saturday feeling more relaxed. They are playing to win every game and it is up to us to gain that ticket to the Soccer Bowl and a win on Saturday will take us one step closer to that big game. Being on an unbeaten run is great but now we need to transform those draws into wins. Our fans deserve another win at home and come Saturday we hope to get one for them."
Tampa Bay will play back-to-back away games, beginning with next Sunday’s clash against the New York Cosmos at James M. Shuart Stadium. The Rowdies will then face another historic rival the following week, as they travel down to Ft. Lauderdale to battle the Strikers on Saturday, October 5 at 7:30 p.m.