A busy week for Miami FC kicks off Wednesday with an important home match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Coming off a somewhat disappointing 1-1 draw on the road against the New York Red Bulls II, Miami will look to try to steal three points against the first-place Rowdies. That’s a tall order against the defending Eastern Conference champions. The Rowdies enter Wednesday night’s match with more points (24) than any other club in the USL Championship.
Can home field advantage give Miami the spark it needs to pull off an upset?
Know Your Enemy: The Tampa Bay Rowdies
After ripping off five straight wins to start the season, the Tampa Bay Rowdies (8-2-0, 24 pts) did show some signs of weakness. In their next three matches, they lost close matches to Charlotte and Pittsburgh and needed a late goal to avoid a draw against last-place Loudoun United. But they’re coming into South Florida on the heels of two straight shutout victories over Hartford and Charleston.
The last time these two teams met was back in May at Al Lang Stadium. While Miami put up a valiant effort, they left empty handed after a 2-1 defeat. Leading up to the match, we pointed out how dangerous forwards Sebastian Guenzatti and Steevan Dos Santos were–and they both scored in the Rowdies win.
Guenzatti is in the 2021 Golden Boot conversation, tied for second in the league with eight goals through 10 games. But Dos Santos suffered a broken bone in the match and hasn’t returned since.
Dos Santos isn’t the only Rowdies player to get bitten by the injury bug. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Rowdies have gone from 24 healthy rostered players down to 16. Notably, midfielders Laurence Wyke and Yann Ekra have also been fighting through injuries.
Goalkeeper Evan Louro has been a huge reason why the Rowdies have been able to keep humming along–posting a league-best five clean sheets and recording 22 saves.
Keys To A Miami Victory
Miami might be short-handed going into Wednesday’s match too, albeit for different reasons, with forward Lamar Walker and midfielder Devon “Speedy” Williams will be representing Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
In Tampa’s two losses, early goals doomed the Rowdies as they struggled to come from behind. If Miami wants to have a fighting chance against the dominant Rowdies, an early goal might be the key to knocking Tampa off balance.
Miami’s backline needs to zero in on Guenzatti and make sure he doesn’t get many clear chances on net. He scored the lone goals in Tampa’s back-to-back 1-0 shutout wins heading into this game. One goal from Guenzatti on Wednesday might be enough to sink Miami.
Miami hasn’t been able to defeat the Rowdies in five tries since joining the USL Championship last season. No wins, four losses and one draw. That’s it. Despite the Rowdies injuries, it’s hard to see that changing Wednesday.
Miami’s offense simply isn’t clicking the way most hoped it would. And against a Rowdies defense that has managed to shut down opposing Atlantic Division rivals with clinical precision, it’s not a recipe for a Miami win.
Maybe all of Tampa’s injuries and playing on four days’ rest on the road will catch up to the Rowdies, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 2 – Miami FC 1
WHO: Miami FC (4-5-2, 14 pts) vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies (8-2-0, 24 pts)
WHEN: Wednesday, July 7 // 7:30 pm EST
WHERE: Riccardo Silva Stadium (Miami, FL)
- Miami FC – None
- TBR – None