Next Match: Louisville City vs Tampa Bay Rowdies – 10/24/2020 – 2020 Playoffs
After Louisville City Thanos-snapped Saint Louis FC from existence on Saturday, only one team stands between City and a fourth consecutive finals appearance. The champions of Group H, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, stomped the Birmingham Legion in the first round and edged out the Charleston Battery last match to earn the trip to Lynn Family Stadium. With Phoenix Rising relinquishing their hosting rights (should they win), the winner of the Lou City vs Rowdies match will earn the privilege of hosting the finals. Both teams have earned their way to this point during the unique 2020 season, yet only one can be victorious this Saturday.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies have been around in some form or another for quite a while, but they have not been part of the USL until 2017. In the previous three seasons, they have finished third, twelfth, and fifth. Last season, Lou City and Tampa met in the playoffs with Louisville securing the 2-1 win. TBR finished this season seventh overall with a 10-3-3 record with a +14 goal differential. City, for context, finished third with a 11-2-3 record with a +16 goal differential. Looking at the groups, Tampa’s Group H was relatively comparable to Louisville’s Group E, however, if forced to pick I would claim that E was a tougher challenge. Indy Eleven, the odd man out in E, would have made the playoffs in most other groups. I can’t say the same for H’s Miami FC who fell way below expectations.
The Rowdies have the seventh-most goals in the league with the twelfth most shots and the fifteenth-most shots on target. They have the seventh most big chances created. They are in the upper end of the spectrum in attacking quality but, like the Riverhounds, this could be skewed in their favor by the 2020 group format. TBR appears to be stronger on the defensive-front than on the offensive-front. They have the third fewest goals conceded per match and the second most clean sheets only behind Louisville City. They appear to pass and control the ball well too. Seventh for accurate passes per match and 53% average possession, good for ninth in the league.
The Tampa Bay roster has many quality players including Sebastián Guenzatti, Leo Fernandes, Lewis Hilton, and Forrest Lasso. Guenzatti is the team’s leading scorer with nine goals, good for eighth in the league. He’s earned a player rating of 7.32 and has also secured an assist this season. Fernandes, a former Philadelphia Union player in the MLS, has four goals, two assists, and a player rating of 7.27 in the 2020 campaign. Hilton leads his squad in chances created. He’s created 28 chances which is seventeenth-best in the league and seventh-best in the East. He has three assists with a player rating of 6.93. And finally, there is Forrest Lasso. Lasso was previously with both Nashville SC and FC Cincinnati, has three goals, one assist, and a player rating of 7.21. While these might be the standouts of the squad, there is another player worth a mention. Former Louisville City player Lucky Mkosana will come back into town with the opposition. They traded Lucky to the Rowdies for Antoine Hoppenot. Although he has not been a regular feature of their side (two goals with a player rating of 6.39), he will have a chip on his shoulder for being dealt away. There is always extra incentives for players in these situations. He is a physical presence, so if he makes it on the pitch, he could have an influence on the match that is not captured in official statistics.
FiveThirtyEight has given City the better odds for most of this season, and that is not changing now. They favor Morados to win at 62% compared to Tampa Bay’s 38%. The USL expert picks also have Lou City slated to win. Projections aside, a one-game playoff match is anyone’s to win. Like Pittsburgh, they may have benefited from a weaker group than Lou City’s but that doesn’t mean they can’t step up to the challenge. As long as Louisville focuses on their preparation and plays their game, they can secure the win. TBR is a brand-new opponent, something City has not had in a month. Studying the film will be key this week leading up to the match. Excited to see how Coach Hackworth and staff approach this match! Cya all at the match! Vamos Morados!