Preview: A Double-header against the Tampa Bay Rowdies

Spending a few days at the beach

It’s not often that teams get to play each other back-to-back in the same stadium. But thanks to the US Open Cup draw, here we are. The Legion and the Rowdies face off twice in one week at Al Lang Stadium in St Petersburg, first tonight at 6:30pm and then on Saturday in league play, also at 6:30pm.

Let’s get the TV viewing sorted first. The league game will be on ESPN+, as is normal. To watch the cup game, you’ll have to go to US Soccer’s website. You can go straight to the game here. If you have a smart TV or streaming device, launch a browser and enter in the URL bar and then select the game. If you have an Android TV, most of these don’t have a browser installed by default. The best one is generally considered to be the horribly-named TV Bro, which can be installed from the Play Store. It may be easier to cast it from a phone though.

The week’s opposition is not exactly to be sniffed at. The Rowdies are always a contender, and are currently 4th in the East on 13 points. That being said, they just got beaten rather badly by Memphis 901, a 1-4 scoreline. That seems a tad familiar… They got hit by ex-Legionaries too. Marlon got a brace and an assist. However, Forrest Lasso, the Tampa centerback, made it a bit easier for Area Code FC by getting read-carded in the 11th minute for a very flagrant DOGSO foul on the aforementioned Marlon.

That will be good for the league game this weekend, as Lasso will be unavailable. It has no effect on his availability tonight though so we can expect him to be on the field. Not on the field will be midfielder Leo Fernandes, the long-time Rowdie who has been dogged by injuries the past two seasons, or ex-Legionary Zach Herivaux. Also with no playing time so far this season is another former Legion player, Freddy Kleemann.

As to who the Rowdies will put on the field to start this game is anyone’s guess. The Rowdies are one of the eight USL Championship teams who did not play in the last round. I would expect a near-normal starting XI, though. What is pretty certain, is that they come out in a 3-4-3 formation, which they have used in every game so far this season bar one, which was a 1-1 draw with North Carolina where they played a very defensive 5-3-2.

Tamps is loaded at more or less every position as well and is scoring largely at will. In 8 games to date they have 17 goals. Scoring leaders are Cal Jennings and Manuel Arteaga, who are both on 6 goals. Obviously, they are very dangerous. No one else on the team has more than one goal, however, so pinning those two down should prevent most defensive problems. They have allowed 11 goals, though, albeit that 4 of them were short-handed last week. Jordan Farr, who was unceremoniously dumped by San Antonio last season, has not looked overly confident between the sticks for Tampa this year so they can be considered vulnerable. His backup is Phil Breno, who hasn’t seen the field yet this season and had just 10 appearances over the past two seasons. It’s possible, but in my opinion unlikely, he will be on the field tonight.

Also bear in mind that the Rowdies went out of last year’s Open Cup at home, losing 0-1 to eventual winners Houston Dynamo (who were knocked out last night by Detroit City in a dramatic game that ended up going all the way to goalkeeper kicks in a PK shootout) AND were knocked out of the USL Championship playoffs last year, also at home and 0-3 to the Legion. Thus they will be motivated to move forward on their own turf tonight and to repeat that performance at the weekend.

Prediction: If the Legion is going to get any joy from these two meetings down in sunny Florida, they will have to play at maximum effectiveness. That’s going to be tough and I have to say that I think the Rowdies are going to take both these games.

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