INDIANAPOLIS (May 2, 2019) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies earned their fifth draw in seven matches Wednesday night, dueling the Indy Eleven to a 0-0 result at Lucas Oil Stadium. It felt like something of a missed opportunity after Indy was reduced to 10 men just 20 minutes into the match, but it did preserve the Rowdies unbeaten record this year.
Here’s Three Things from the match…
1. Schedule chaos
Wednesday night’s final whistle brought a very long week to an end for the Rowdies, closing their third match in eight days. The Rowdies beat Atlanta United 2 4-1 on the road last Wednesday, flew home for a 1-1 draw against the Charlotte Independence on Saturday night and then hit the road again to take on one of the preseason USL Championship favorites Wednesday night.
Going back to last Tuesday, the Rowdies had their usual short day-before-game training session before flying back to Atlanta. They played Wednesday night and returned to Tampa Bay late Thursday afternoon. Friday morning, the Rowdies trained in driving rain with Wednesday’s starters excused from the session early to get some recovery in. The Rowdies played Saturday night and had Sunday off from team activities. After training Monday, the Rowdies flew to Indianapolis on Tuesday and again had a short day-before-game training session. Playing the third match on artificial turf with American football lines was just an extra challenge.
To escape from a three-game stretch with two road games unscathed is hugely positive, even if the Rowdies would ideally have wanted more than five points from the three matches. Finally, the Rowdies have a week between matches, though two of those days will be designated for travel to return from Indianapolis today and then fly to Nashville next Tuesday.
Four Rowdies played all 270 minutes with Caleb Richards playing 269. Sebastian Guenzatti was taken out of the Saturday night match in second-half stoppage time but still officially recorded 270 minutes.
2. Stuck in the neutral zone
After failing to keep a clean sheet for three matches — a long stretch by Rowdies standards this year — Tampa Bay did post its fifth shutout in nine matches Wednesday night. Following Indy’s 20th minute red card, the Eleven was always pretty unlikely to score in the match, but John McCarthy did still need to make four saves to reclaim the league lead in shutouts by himself.
The match played out as you would have expected after Paddy Barrett’s early dismissal. The Rowdies had more than 60 percent possession and the average position chart shows eight Rowdies camped out in Indy’s defensive half, plus Mohamed Kone just short of the halfway line. Only McCarthy and Pape Diakite were further back than the center circle.
Curiously, Indy’s average position isn’t as deep as it sometimes felt. The space between the top of Indy’s 18-yard box and halfway line has 14 of the 22 combined starters in it, showing that the Eleven effectively plugged the middle of the field with a medium block to stifle the Rowdies. Add in the substitutes and that area of the field is seriously clogged.
Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins used all three of his substitutes on forwards but Tampa Bay still couldn’t find a way through. For the final nine minutes plus stoppage time, five forwards were all on the field together with attacking midfielder Andrew Tinari. The Rowdies only have seven forwards on the roster and two missed the match due to injury.
3. Setting a new bar
In last week’s win over Indianapolis, the Rowdies set what is believed to be a new Modern Era record for youngest starting lineup ever at 24.1 years of age. That record was broken last night by a hair, with the Rowdies dropping their average ago to 24.0 due to Mohamed Kone (25 years old) replacing Tarek Morad (26 years old) on the back line.
By comparison, Indy’s starting lineup checked in at 28.4 years old Wednesday. That may seem like a small difference numerically, but an average of 4.4 years of additional professional experience across the board is huge.
Still, the Rowdies youngsters more than held their own against Indy. Tampa Bay’s central midfield trio of Dom Oduro, Jordan Doherty and Andrew Tinari average just 21.7 years old. Indy's four midfielders averaged 31.25 years old, nearly a decade of experience over the Rowdies.
Add in a 22-year old forward in Juan Tejada and a 20-year old defender in Caleb Richards and you can see how much room Tampa Bay has to grow as this season progresses.