Matchday 10 Info:
Tampa Bay Rowdies vs San Diego Loyal SC
Saturday, April 30, 7:30pm ET, Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, FL
Follow Along: Live updates on Twitter at @RowdiesGameday
It has only been two weeks since the Tampa Bay Rowdies took the field at Al Lang Stadium and recorded a 3-1 win over FC Tulsa, but those weeks have felt even longer with a tough string of results on the road. The Rowdies narrowly fell to Orlando City SC in the U.S. Open Cup and then followed that up with a disappointing draw at New York Red Bulls II and a 3-1 loss at Memphis 901 FC on Wednesday.
The recent results can feel even more deflating when you factor in the congested schedule the Rowdies have had to start the year. On Saturday night, the Rowdies will become the first USL Championship team to have played ten matches this year. If you add in the club’s two Open Cup games, the Rowdies have averaged a game played every four days since the start of the season. Thankfully, the Rowdies have a little respite coming up with just two matches in May.
“It’s really difficult when you have a couple of results that we would have hoped for better,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “It’s important we’ve always looked at ourselves first. We know in those two games we could have controlled specific areas that would have allowed us to go on and win both of those games. We didn’t do that. There’s no getting away from the fact we’re in a tough part of the schedule. Everyone in the league is going to go through a period like this.”
Tampa Bay has been without midfielder Sebastian Dalgaard for their last three matches and could be without another key midfield piece on Saturday against Saturday. Central Midfielder Lewis Hilton was forced to exit Wednesday’s match in Memphis in the first half, shortly after depositing a 25-yard free kick into the top left corner of the goal. Hilton will be a game-time decision for the Rowdies against San Diego.
One player the Rowdies know for a fact will be unavailable on Saturday is forward Steevan Dos Santos. The Rowdies attacker is suspended after receiving a red card just before the hour mark in Memphis.
“Everyone’s going to have injuries, everyone’s going to have suspensions,” noted Collins. “We’ve always bounced back well and I thought the boys showed that well when we went down to ten men. Despite having a really busy schedule, the response was fantastic, the fitness levels are great. With ten men, we were very unfortunate not to get back in the game and tie it up. That for me is the main positive from the trip, because at 2-1 down and down to ten men, the world’s against you. It’d be so easy to just see out the end of the game and let Memphis take control. We did the opposite. We’ve got a game against a good opponent tomorrow who, like Memphis, have had ten days to prepare.”
No Shortage of Chances
A key to the Rowdies finding a way out of their current rough patch could be scoring with more consistency. Through their first nine games the Rowdies have scored 12 goals, a respectable if not impressive number. The good news is the chances are there. Tampa Bay lead the league in Expected Goals so far this year with a total of 16.2xG. When the Rowdies do find their finish touch and begin to bury their chances with more consistency, the positive results are likely to follow.
“I’m sure our strikers won’t mind me saying this because they’ll be honest themselves, two or three of them have not hit the heights that we’ve become accustomed to in the past. That happens. The effort’s been good, there’s been a lot of good play from them, they’ve just not hit the standards they set for themselves.”
Different Conferences, Similar Approaches
Playing styles and philosophies between the USL Championship’s Eastern and Western Conference can vary wildly. However, Tampa Bay and San Diego might have more in common on the field. The two sides are tied for the third best passing accuracy with a completion rate of 82 percent. Both sides look to dominate a match by controlling the ball, which poses an interesting matchup for Saturday night.
Tampa Bay does hold an edge with a USL-best 4,495 passes completed. San Diego ranks fifth with 3,719 passes. No other team in the league has completed more than 4,000 passes. Tampa Bay currently has four players in the top ten for passes completed, with Aaron Guillen (691) and Conner Antley (599) ranking one and two on the list.
“San Diego likes to possess the ball and I think this year we’ve shown we like to control the game on the ball. It’s about finding the balance to have that patience to create spaces and gaps but also to penetrate when they’re there as well. It should make a good game for the neutral because you’ve got two teams that are well organized, play an exciting brand of soccer and it’s going to be on a good field as well.”
OUT: Sebastian Dalgaard, Robert Castellanos
QUESTIONABLE: Lewis Hilton
SUSPENDED: Steevan Dos Santos