NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 9, 2019) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies picked up an impressive road win over Nashville SC on Wednesday night, beating the hosts 1-0 in a nationally-televised heavyweight bout. Juan Tejada scored the game-winning goal for the Rowdies.
Here’s Three Things from the match…
1. Standing alone
With the Rowdies win and Fresno FC’s loss to the Sacramento Republic late Wednesday night, the Rowdies are now the only unbeaten team left in the either conference of the USL Championship. Of the 36 teams in the league, 35 have been beaten at least once this season. The Rowdies stand alone with a zero in the loss column.
In fact, of the 67 teams playing in the top three divisions of U.S. soccer, the Rowdies are one of only two still undefeated in 2019. All 24 teams in Major League Soccer have lost at least once. North Texas SC is the only unbeaten team left in USL League One, though it has only played four matches to date.
The Rowdies win moved them into a tie for first place atop the Eastern Conference standings, even with New York Red Bulls II on 20 points. The Red Bulls lead on tiebreaker and have a game in hand heading into next week’s clash against Tampa Bay at Al Lang Stadium. The Rowdies didn’t reach the 20-point threshold until July 4 last year.
Going into Wednesday night’s match, forecasting website FiveThirtyEight.com projected Nashville SC as favorites to win the league with a 14 percent chance of winning the USL Cup Final ahead of the Rowdies in second at nine percent. After Wednesday night’s win, the Rowdies (13 percent) have leapfrogged Nashville (10 percent) as title favorites nearly one third of the way through the regular season. Seven of the top 10 teams in the rankings play in the Eastern Conference.
2. Road warriors
The Rowdies moved their road record to 3-0-2 this season with Wednesday night’s win. That continues a trend this season of Tampa Bay actually having a better record away from home than at Al Lang Stadium. The Rowdies have struggled mightily on the road in recent seasons, but have now averaged 2.2 points per game on the road compared to 1.8 points per game in St. Pete.
It’s not just a fluke of a favorable schedule, either. The Rowdies have already visited Saint Louis (3rd place), Nashville (6th place) and Indy (7th place), plus playing in Memphis 901 FC’s first-home game ever in front of a hostile crowd of 8,062. Before the season, Nashville and Indy were considered the favorites to win the East so to still be unbeaten after visiting both of those cities is a considerable achievement.
The Rowdies now need to better their home form with four of their next five league matches at home, plus Tuesday night’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup contest against The Villages SC.
3. Big Pape
The Rowdies got another big performance from Pape Diakite on Wednesday night to keep their sixth clean sheet in 10 matches. Diakite is the only outfield player to play every minute of this season so far and has played a critical role as the central defender in a back three.
Diakite won eight of his nine duels against Nashville, including all seven in the air. He tallied seven clearances and four interceptions to stifle Nashville’s high-powered attack.
This year, Diakite has won 90 percent of his tackles and 71 percent of his duels. He leads the entire USL Championship in clearances with 68.