This is the one we’ve all been waiting for. The Miami FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies will square off for the first time this season, continuing an in-state rivalry that began back in 2016. Both teams will be jockeying for position atop the Atlantic Division standings in the early stages of the season.
Miami FC struggled against the Rowdies in 2020, losing three times and earning a draw against the eventual Eastern Conference champions. The club is hoping to flip the script this season with an improved backline, stellar goalkeeping and speed on the attack.
Interestingly, this match will take place just a few hours after the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning take the ice in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs … which is also being played in Tampa. So it’s possible that one part of Florida will have some serious bragging rights when it’s all said and done. The question is, will it be South Florida or the Tampa Bay area?
Know Your Enemy: Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Rowdies (3-0-0, 9 pts) haven’t lost a step from a year ago. They’ve put together three straight victories to kick off 2021. In fact, they’re the only Eastern Conference team left with a perfect record after defeating Phoenix Rising FC 2-1 last Saturday.
But what’s most impressive about Tampa’s season isn’t just that they’re winning, it’s how they’ve won. The Rowdies boast one of the league’s best goal differentials (+7), having allowed just one goal through three matches. That includes two clean sheets for goalkeeper Evan Louro against Atlantic Division foes Charlotte and Pittsburgh. Louro can’t take all the credit, however. His backline has kept the ball away from the net for most of the season (Louro has six saves in three appearances).
Forwards Sebastian Guenzatti and Steevan Dos Santos have been lethal for the Rowdies up front. Guenzetti–now in his fourth season with the Rowdies–leads the way with three goals and an assist. Meanwhile, Dos Santos has scored a goal in each of the past two games and seems to be fitting in nicely with his new club.
Finally, we can’t forget about Tampa Bay’s midfield duo of Laurence Wyke and Zach Steinberger. They’ve been very disruptive to opposing attackers through three games this season.
Keys To A Victory for The Miami FC
Make no mistake: Tampa Bay will be the toughest test Miami FC has faced in this young season. The boys in Orange and Blue will need to be firing on all cylinders if they want to have a chance to steal three points.
It all starts with Connor Sparrow. He has been a revelation in goal for Miami FC. Sparrow has tallied a league-best 13 saves and allowed just two goals in three starts. He picked up his first clean sheet of the season against New York Red Bulls II last week, and he’ll need to be on the top of his game against Tampa’s potent offense.
Coming into the season, Miami’s defense was a big question mark. But so far this season, Miami has quieted those fears (they’ve only conceded two goals). The back four of Janos Loebe, Ramon Del Campo, Paco Craig and Richard Ballard did a splendid job of keeping the ball away from the net against NYRBII. They’ll need to do more of the same against a tougher Tampa team.
Surprisingly, it’s the offense that’s yet to really get going. That has to change for Miami FC to earn a positive result Saturday night. Miami has had its chances to score goals. Just last week, forward Billy Forbes had two one-on-one chances against the NYRBII goalkeeper, only to be denied. Can Forbes finally find the back of the net against Tampa?
It’s going to be a ton of fun watching two of the Atlantic Division’s top teams squaring off throughout the season. Saturday night should give us a better idea of where these two teams stand and set the tone for the rest of the year. The big question is: Will Miami FC’s offense finally turn opportunities into goals?
I think we’ll finally see Miami FC’s offense begin to shine through and convert on more of their chances, but a red-hot Tampa Bay squad at home might be too much of a hurdle at this point in the season.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 3 – Miami FC 2
WHO: Miami FC (2-1-0, 6 pts) at Tampa Bay Rowdies (3-0-0, 9 pts)
WHEN: Saturday, May 22 // 7:30 pm EST
WHERE: Al Lang Stadium (St. Petersburg, FL)
INJURY UPDATE: None
- Miami FC – None
- Tampa Bay Rowdies – None