Next Match – Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City – 11/20/2021 – 2021 Playoffs
Another year and another trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Charlotte Independence were formidable opponents, but not enough to stop Louisville City’s inevitable trip to the ECF. As if it was destiny itself, the Tampa Bay Rowdies have also marched their way to the ECF as well, setting up a rematch of the 2020 final. While the Rowdies got the better of the previous encounter, ending LouCity’s season in Lynn Family Stadium, will Louisville be the ones to send the Rowdies packing in their own home, Al Lang Stadium?
This will be the toughest test yet for LouCity. Tampa Bay is in most measures one of the best teams in the league. Their defense is a solid wall and their attack makes other teams look as if they are in a lower division. Check out where they ranked compared to other teams towards the end of the regular season and you’ll see what I mean. They are 4th for shots on-target per match, 3rd for goals per match, and 1st for conceded goals per match. With that said, Louisville City has made it this far for a reason. They are right up there with the Rowdies and there is little reason to doubt this will be a very tight contest.
Like LouCity, the Rowdies are a deep team with a ton of talent. Three players deserving to be highlighted are Sebastián Guenzatti, Lewis Hilton, and Forrest Lasso. When I call Guenzatti a freak, I mean that with the utmost respect. One of the best players in the league on one of the best teams. He leads his team on shots on-target, goals (with 22!), assists, and even player rating. Hilton is, as described by John Morrissey, on the latest episode of the Vamos Morados Podcast, the engine that makes Tampa work. The midfielder has 5 assists (3rd), averages 2 key passes per match (1st), and a fantastic player rating of 7.49 (2nd). Lasso is a name already known to LouCity fans. He has been a perpetual thorn in City’s side on FC Cincy, Nashville, and now Tampa. He is a great defender who averages 4.8 clearances per match (1st). It's also worth noting that former LouCity player Lucky Mkosana is on the Rowdies. He was traded to them in 2019 for Antoine Hoppenot.
It’s not often that Louisville City is viewed as the underdog. FiveThirtyEight is only giving Morados a 37% chance to win and advance to their 4th finals appearance. Between the strengths of Tampa and LouCity’s struggles on the road, one can see why there would be some doubts. City will need to be firing on all cylinders and cannot afford any players to have an “off night”. If LouCity plays to their full potential, it’s anyone’s ball game. “It’s an opportunity to play for a trophy,” Coach Danny Cruz stated after the LOUvCLT win. “That is what this group has done year in and year out. This is just another opportunity. We understand the stakes. We understand what it takes to accomplish that. I am confident in the group of guys that I have in there.”
Shout out to the front office for helping to secure free flights, busses, and tickets for fans wanting to attend this match. Do we have the best team or what!? It will be a purple invasion this Saturday and I hope to see many LouCity lovin’ faces there!
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!
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