ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (October 26, 2017) — If the Tampa Bay Rowdies are to hold seed and defeat the New York Red Bulls II in their USL Eastern Conference Semifinal on Saturday, slowing Red Bulls forward Stefano Bonomo will be crucial.
Bonomo, a 24-year old California native in his third season with the club, is hitting peak form at the right time, scoring five goals in five matches in the month of October. Those goals include the opener against the Rowdies at Al Lang on October 4, a hat trick in Orlando a few days later and the Red Bulls’ opener in their opening round upset of the Charleston Battery last weekend.
Bonomo entered October with six goals to his name, but has played a critical role in helping New York first qualify for the postseason and then advance.
Tasked with stopping Bonomo will be a Rowdies defensive unit that has kept back-to-back clean sheets and conceded only nine goals in 17 matches at Al Lang Stadium this season.
At the head of the pack will be Rowdies center back Hunter Gorskie, who matches up well with Bonomo due to their similarities in size and athleticism. In the clip of Bonomo’s five goals below, you’ll see it was a lingering touch from Gorskie that led to Bonomo’s goal against the Rowdies.
Games Played: 9
Games Started: 9
One of the newer members of the Rowdies, Gorskie has been a natural fit in the Rowdies’ defensive ranks, fitting seamlessly between right back Darnell King and left-sided center back Neill Collins.
Gorskie has been part of a Rowdies defensive unit that has been suffocating in recent weeks. In last Saturday’s first round match against FC Cincinnati, Tampa Bay was tasked with slowing down a forward pairing of Djiby Fall and Danni König that had combined for 23 USL goals this season. The Rowdies limited Cincinnati to just one shot on target over the course of 90 minutes.
A similarly dominant performance might be needed this weekend as the Rowdies take on one of the USL’s best scoring attacks. New York is averaging an astonishing 2.9 goals per math in its last 10 games and has scored six goals in two games against Tampa Bay this season.
Games Played: 14
Games Started: 13
Shots On Target: 19
As the clip above shows, Bonomo has a versatile skill set. The first goal is a clinical first-time shot with pressure from an approaching defender. The second goal shows off Bonomo’s strength and determination, beating a defender one-on-one before finishing to the bottom corner. The third is a thing of beauty, a ferocious volley to the top corner. The fourth is another first-touch shot hard to the corner and the fifth is a diving header.
Bonomo has started only 13 matches this season, less than half of the Red Bulls’ matches, but has to be among the first names on the team sheet in his current run of form. With 1,081 minutes played and 11 games, his minutes-per-goal average of 98.3 suggests he’s just about due to score every match he starts.
Where the Rowdies can slow Bonomo is by forcing him onto his weaker left foot. Of Bonomo’s 11 finishes this season, 10 have been with his right foot and one was with his head. According to Opta, of Bonomo’s 19 career USL goals, none have ever been with his left foot.