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Match Preview: Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs FC Cincinnati

By Rowdies Communications, 10/20/17, 9:45AM EDT


The Basics
No. 3 Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. No. 6 FC Cincinnati
Saturday, October 21, 7:30 p.m. ET
Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Follow us for live updates on Twitter at @RowdiesGameday

Tickets for Saturday’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinal are available by calling (727) 222-2000 or clicking here. Gates open at 6 p.m. Advanced purchase pricing is available until 1 p.m. Saturday before raising to day-of event pricing.

USL Cup Playoffs
This is a first round match in the USL Cup Playoffs. The winner will advance to face the winner of No. 2 Charleston Battery vs. No. 7 New York Red Bulls II in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. If the Rowdies advance to play Charleston, the match will be in South Carolina. If the Rowdies advance to face New York, the match will be at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, October 28.

Because this is a playoff match, Saturday’s contest must produce a winner. If the score is tied after regulation, to 15-minute periods of extra time will be played in their entirety. If the score is still level after 120 minutes of action, the winner will be determined via a penalty kick shootout.

How to Watch
The match will be broadcast locally on thisTV Tampa Bay and online on the USL’s official YouTube channel here.

There are several options for parking at Al Lang Stadium and around downtown. Parking in Lot A, right in front of the stadium, costs $5. For more information, click here

Tampa Bay: 14-11-7 (W-T-L), 53 points, 3rd place place Eastern Conference
FC Cincinnati: 12-10-10 (W-T-L), 46 points, 6th place Eastern Conference

Rowdies Notes
This marks the Rowdies’ first postseason match since winning the 2012 NASL Soccer Bowl on October 27, 2012, a postseason drought of 1,821 days. Tampa Bay beat the Minnesota Stars (now Minnesota United FC) 3-1 to even the series 3-3 on aggregate and won 3-2 in penalty kicks to claim the title. Keith Savage and Stuart Campbell are the lone holdovers from that night, with Campbell now in the position of Head Coach.

Tampa Bay opens the USL Cup Playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and on a seven-game unbeaten streak since a 4-2 road loss to the New York Red Bulls II on Sept. 2. at seven-game unbeaten run is the longest active streak in the USL.

The Rowdies closed the regular season last Thursday with a 2-0 road win over Orlando City B to secure a top-four finish. Georgi Hristov and Sebastian Guenzatti scored second-half goals in the win. Matt Pickens made two saves to keep his ninth clean sheet of the year.

Opening the playoffs at home is a major boost to the Rowdies, who have been dominant on the surface at Al Lang Stadium this season. The Rowdies’ home record of 11 wins and just one loss in 16 regular season home games is the best in the Eastern Conference. The Rowdies conceded just nine goals at home in 16 matches this season. Tampa Bay’s current 13-game home unbeaten streak in all competitions is a new Modern Era club record.

The Rowdies have scored in 15 straight matches, a streak that began in Tampa Bay’s 2-0 home win over FC Cincinnati on July 6.

Three players on the Rowdies’ roster are new additions since the last time these two teams faced off, with Walter Restrepo, Sebastian Guenzatti and Hunter Gorskie all joining the club after July 6. All three have become regular contributors.

Georgi Hristov is Tampa Bay’s leading scorer this season with 12 goals, including goals in back-to-back matches to end the regular season. In his fifth season with the club, Hristov is the Rowdies’ Modern Era leader in both appearances (144) and goals (51.)

Scouting FC Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati arrives in St. Petersburg as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference following a 4-3 win over Toronto FC II in Canada on the final weekend of the regular season. Cincinnati’s ticket to the postseason was actually booked by the Rowdies’ win in Orlando on Thursday of last week, eliminating Orlando City B from postseason contention.

First year head coach Alan Koch has had mixed results this season to finish sixth. Cincinnati’s best results this season came in a remarkable run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals, knocking out AFC Cleveland (NPSL), Louisville City FC (USL), Columbus Crew SC (MLS), Chicago Fire (MLS) and Miami FC (NASL) before eventually falling to the New York Red Bulls (MLS.)

Cincinnati has a record of 4-4-8 (W-T-L) away from Nippert Stadium this season, with the wins coming in Pittsburgh, Louisville, Charlotte and Toronto.

The Cincinnati attack is led by the pair of Djiby Fall and Danni König, though they don’t often play together. Fall is the leading scorer with 12 goals, just ahead of König’s 11. Fall started the season with six goals in four games, but his momentum was lost when he served a five-game suspension for biting a Louisville City FC player in April.

Goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt racked up a USL-high 100 saves in the regular season with a save percentage of 68 percent, though he conceded 12 more goals than Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who saved 66 percent of shots he faced.