Match Recap – Louisville City vs Tampa Bay Rowdies – 11/05/2022 - 2022 Playoffs
Not all rivalries are proximity-based. In the past two seasons, the Tampa Bay Rowdies have ended Louisville City’s playoff run in the Eastern Conference Finals. Once at Lynn Family Stadium and once at Al Lang (in dramatic fashion). Those matches were not forgotten in their regular season meetings since. All have been close affairs. Their 2022 ECF meeting would be the third straight. Would the Rowdies continue to be LouCity’s playoff kryptonite or would this be the year that Morados bucks the trend and overcomes their rival in the East?
Opting to go with the 4-3-3, Josh Wynder started on the bench and Corben Bone filled that void. That would be the only personnel change in the starting eleven compared to the previous match. Cameron Lancaster, who was on the bench the last match, was omitted from the eighteen and Brain Ownby made his return in his spot.
Louisville took early control of the match and held a lot of possession in the Rowdies’ half of the pitch. At 16’, LouCity had their first good look at goal of the evening with a shot from Matiti Mushagalusa, but it rolled wide of the far post. Matiti quickly became a problem for the Rowdies on the left side of the pitch. He took another crack at goal at 34’ which narrowly missed the top right corner of the goal. Just a few minutes later, Ray Serrano had a go at goal off a scramble from a corner kick but it was off target. By the end of the first half, LouCity looked like the stronger side out-possessing TBR with 54% possession and outshooting them seven to two.
The control the boys in purple exerted over the match (in big part thanks to Matiti) forced Neil Collins to be the first to issue personnel changes. One at the start of the half and two more, less than twenty minutes later. At 65’ Brian Ownby made his return to the pitch, coming on for Paolo DelPiccolo. Elijah Wynder entered the fray as well, swapping in for Ray Serrano. The Rowdies didn’t allow LouCity as much control in the second half, but it was still a tight contest with very few opportunities. At 75’, a long ball was played to Ownby, who sent it back centrally to Wilson Harris. Harris’ ensuring shot forced a diving save from the TBR keeper, who only secured it with the tips of his finger. It was a shot that nearly broke the stalemate. At 82’, a kerfuffle arose. Amid the shoving, Bone put his hands towards the face of a Rowdies’ player right in front of the ref earning a game-changing red card. An absolutely disastrous turn of events for the home team. In response, Coach Danny Cruz brought in Josh Wynder, Napo Matsoso, and Oscar Jimenez and took out Harris, Matiti, and Manny Perez. Those changes were enough for the ten men LouCity team to survive through the end of regulation. That included a big stop from Danny Faundez at 91’.
Despite the disadvantage, LouCity was still getting some opportunities in Tampa’s half. Dynamic runs by the much-missed Ownby were quite helpful. The magic moment occurred at 108’. Oscar took a corner kick that landed right in the fray of Rowdies and City players. For a few tense seconds, the ball pinged around the group of players before Elijah sent it through the crowd and past the keeper for the biggest goal of his young career. Absolute pandemonium ensued in Lynn Family Stadium, as against the odds, Louisville City took the lead with less than 15 minutes to play. The Rowdies had one solid chance to level the match, and it came by way of none other than Lucky Mkosana. At 114’, they quickly worked the ball down LouCity’s left flank and flicked it into Lucky, who took the immediate shot that bolted over the crossbar. Louisville City weathered the storm as Tampa desperately looked to find a goal of their own, but it wasn’t to be. The whistle blew at 120’+1 and Louisville City was crowned Eastern Conference Champions.
By The Numbers
Louisville had a strong first half but the second half saw the script flip a bit, largely in part to going a man down. The ending numbers were more Rowdies favored. Morados ended with 46% total possession with 11 shots (four on target) and an xG of 1.06 to TBR’s 12 shots (five on target) and 1.15 xG. Much like many had guessed going into the match, it was one that could go either way given the quality of both sides. Thankfully, it was LouCity that prevailed this time.
Player Of The Match
Matiti Mushagalusa was a PROBLEM for the Rowdies. He ran wild on them in the first and forced them to make the first moves entered the second half. Although he didn’t find the back of the net, he posed a lot of problems for the visitors. He gave it his all and earns my vote for POTM.
The club’s first trophy since the 2019 ECF. A much-deserved honor for a special team. The Tampa Bay Rowdies have been a challenge for the club and finally overcoming that hurdle is a big relief for all. It was a hard-fought match full of emotion. Earning a preventable red card was a blemish on an otherwise stellar night. Personally, going down a man had me dejected, but Coach Cruz never lost faith in his squad. “You never want to go down a man in a game like that, but with that group, I believed. I absolutely believed.”
Lifting silverware is something special ever for those accustomed to it. “It’s excellence. It’s what we work for,” said Paolo DelPiccolo. “It’s a step toward what we are working for, and lifting the trophy is always something special. I’m just elated.” What makes it even more special is having the club’s first-ever academy signing score the goal to send the team to the finals. “I’m just happy to help the team out,” said Elijah after the match. Like Danny Faundez’s story of trialist to starting in the playoffs, Elijah’s injury, recovery, loan to League One, return to the first team, and contributions in the playoffs is another phenomenal story of preservation and overcoming obstacles. These are the narratives and memories that will last long beyond the stats and Xs and Os of the game itself.
Celebrations were certainly in order, but everyone knew there was one more to go. After the results of the Western Conference Finals, it was determined that Louisville City would be away in San Antonio for the USL Championship Finals. This will mark the first meeting of 1st in the East and 1st in the West in the finals. Like Louisville, SA is loaded with talent. They play a unique style and the matchup should be a fascinating one for all watching. Is this the year for the 3rd star? We will find out on Sunday night!
There is still time to make a donation for the VamosMorados.com Player Of The Year and have a chance at winning a ball signed by the team!
Want to do a little more reading on LouCity? I suggest the following:
Be sure to check out the Vamos Morados Podcast featuring me, Benton, and Zach Allen-Kelly. It’s available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Audible, and Spotify. Everything you need to listen can be found on the Podcast page. Subscribe so you don’t miss an episode!
We also host Soccer City Radio on Thursday's from 6:00-7:00 PM EST on ESPN 680/105.7