Date: Saturday August 12, 2023
Kickoff Time: 7:30 pm EST at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, FL
Records: Tampa Bay Rowdies (38 pts 11W-5D-6L); Monterey Bay FC (23 pts 7W-6D-10L)
Standings: The Rowdies are 3rd in the East and Monterey Bay are 10th in the West
On Nicky Law’s second go-round, his team couldn’t muster the same performance as they had the week before. Completely stifled by the opposition defense, they were held just to one shot on target – and one successful cross. This weekend, they’ll want to reverse all that against a club with a less-than-stellar record of late. Get to Al Lang this weekend to take it in!
Why couldn’t we create any chances?
The result last weekend was very disappointing for Rowdies fans. Not only did the team take zero points home with them, but the summit of the Eastern Conference actually got farther away. Pittsburgh jumped to 44 on the season – still tied for best in the league overall – and left us dangling in a precarious third spot. Louisville City will be nipping at the heels soon enough.
Yet, with all that on the line, the only goal of the game came in the third minute. It was a well executed goal from the Riverhounds, to be sure. Their pressing from the jump created multiple problems, one of which led to the ball being coughed up with the team in such a bad position that they could not recover to prevent Pittsburgh from scoring. But, a goal scored before all the fans have reached their seats just doesn’t feel like it should be enough to win a game.
The Rowdies eventually settled into their formation and the conditions of the opposition’s press. There weren’t many big chances for the home team, either, with them registering just the one shot on goal all night – that one very good shot. Unfortunately, another injury has potentially hit Tampa Bay after Dayonn Harris had to come off midway through the first half. His replacement required the Rowdies to change shape even further.
When recent signing Abel Caputo replaced him, one could be forgiven for wondering why a central midfielder was coming on for this winger. As it happens, no other such option was available on the bench. The Rowdies came to Pittsburgh with their starting XI plus six players. The squad is shockingly thin at the moment, especially down the flanks.
With Caputo stepping into his natural position, Jordan Doherty, who has really come into his own in the middle this season, dropped deeper to form a true back three. This matched the formation Pittsburgh had started with. Ultimately, with Jake Areman and Conner Antley now operating as wingbacks, the two sides looked evenly matched and the Riverhounds’ defense was as superb as ever. This should not surprise anyone, considering their manager is Bob Lilley.
With Arturo Ordonez, Joe Farrell, and Nathan Dossantos on the backline, the club from Pennsylvania was able to match every move the Rowdies made. Doherty’s ability to marshal the midfield wasn’t necessarily gone; but, we might not have seen the same output from Caputo yet. Unfortunately, Jake LaCava’s guile wasn’t enough to undo the Riverhounds’ defense, either. His marker was able to prevent him from building up any speed on the run.
None of Nicky Law’s substitutions swayed the tie, either. When Charlie Dennis came off in the 70th minute, the possibility for any creativity seemed to go with him. Ariel Martinez, as crafty as he can be, did not contribute as hoped. It was more a case of going out with a whimper really.
Is Monterey Bay creating a trap game?
With all these injuries and long term layoffs, where does that leave the Rowdies as they return to Al Lang this weekend? Leo Fernandes is out for the whole season, while Lewis Hilton and Zach Herivaux could also be on course for that. At the time of writing, we don’t know where they are in their respective recoveries. With Seb Dalgaard out for five games now and Harris potentially facing another game on the sidelines, one wonders, like Dr. Frasier Crane , what is a boy to do?
Nicky Law will have to figure that out before Saturday. Forrest Lasso wasn’t part of the team that traveled to Pennsylvania last weekend; although, we haven’t heard that there’s any reason for concern. If there isn’t, he should slot back into the lineup and bring the Rowdies into a familiar 5-2-3 formation. Nearly everyone in Green and Gold has done that at some point recently.
Jordan Doherty and Yann Ekra would take up their usual positions in the center of the midfield, with Dennis in front of them and two fullbacks on the side. Those would naturally have to be Antley and Areman, as there really aren’t other options. Up top, Law could choose to use both of his capable strikers, JJ Williams and Cal Jennings, or swap one for LaCava.
Regardless of the formation, Monterey Bay will be looking at this situation and let their minds wander with possibility. The Rowdies are known for being hard to beat at home. For one reason or another, this season that seems to be less of the case. Right now is the perfect time to strike if you’re an opposing team. And what better way to get your mojo back?
Monterey Bay are on a bit of a skid lately. Seven games without a win and four losses in a row is not a proud record for any sportsperson. Tampa Bay, though, were just shut out and lost yet another attacking piece to their lineup. While there are still others with which the Rowdies could create danger, there’s something of a blueprint for how to prevent that.
From this past weekend, with Harris off, the Rowdies reverted to their five-at-the-back setup. As discussed above, Pittsburgh simply shut them out of the game and prevented their visitors from doing anything they wanted. Will it be the visitors’ turn to do that to Tampa Bay now?
Assuming nearly all the same players are on the field, they could very easily follow in the footsteps the Riverhounds laid out for them. It will be up to Law and Co. to find a better way around or through their opponents. Fans will hope they start the game a little more focused as well. Giving one up early to a team that has the flexibility to sit in a back-five themselves and hunker for nearly 90 minutes is not out of the question here.
Behind Enemy Lines with Special Guest Noah Telford from @mbfc_discussion on Instagram:
If I had to summarize Monterey bay’s season up into one word it would have to be “rollercoaster”. At times we have looked like a top 5 team in the league. Scoring 4-5 goals a game with a deadly counter attack while maybe conceding 1 here or there. We can also get it done on the defensive side of the ball as well and can pull out a 1-0 win by sitting in a low block. But then there are times where we look like a team that, if there was promotion and relegation, we would be in grave danger of being relegated. And I don’t say that lightly either. In the current 7 game winless streak we have been on we have scored a total of 2 goals and conceded 14 while only gaining 2 points from the 7. Prior to this major dip in form however we had rattled off 4 straight wins, a club record. At the end of that 4 game winning streak we sat 3rd in the western conference. But the recent dip in form has seen us plummet to 10th in the western conference.
So really, given the recent results, I don’t expect much to change in this match. I think we will be lucky to get out of Al Lang with a draw. But in terms of how we attack, I mentioned it a bit earlier in this preview and it’s that we are not a possession based team. We will allow the opponent to have the lion’s share possession of the ball and look to catch the other side out and counterattack. We are very good at pouncing and capitalizing on other teams mistakes so it will be important for the Rowdies to be organized in transition, especially off of set pieces and corners as that is where most of our counter attacks stem from.
A player to watch out for from our side is going to be our goalkeeper Antony Siaha, assuming he starts. A 6’7 frame and capable of keeping the Union in any match he has 52 saves and 5 clean sheets to his tally this season and I fully expect him to get the start between the posts for Saturday.
Score Predictions from the RBLR Rowdies Podcast:
Carlos Rueda: 2-0 Rowdies
James Knowles: 3-1 Rowdies
Yurika Wheeler: 2-1 Rowdies
Special Guest: Ben Wilcox of UnUsed Substitutes – 2-0 Rowdies