The Djiby show was alive and well in front of a record crowd for a USL season opener as FC Cincinnati defeated Saint Louis FC 4-0. The Bailey was rocking and FCC will look to carry their momentum into the match Wednesday night against a possible rival in the race for a spot in MLS, the Tampa Bay Rowdies. In a rematch from last season, the Orange & Blue lost their only matchup against Tampa 1-0 in the US Open Cup. With a spot near the top of the Eastern Conference up for grabs, here’s how members of our staff think Saturday night’s meeting will turn out.
Tampa Bay/St Pete/Clearwater (insert your city here) Rowdies come to town for a midweek game that doesn’t have any but will inevitably be sold as a game with MLS ramifications. With a typical midweek match, you’d have some squad rotation but I just don’t see it. If anything, I think Slick Willy Edwards will use this game (if they win) as an indictment that #MLS2WhateveaCityIslandTownBeach is ready for the big time. Even with all their self-promotion and crappy hashtags they can’t seem to draw a crowd worth a damn so he’ll try to sell that they are the “most capable team” to take the jump to MLS even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Soooooo Orange & Blue faithful, be prepared to see the strongest lineup Tampa can trot out and hope FCC doesn’t regress to the form they showed the first 3 matches. They might have more talent but we have the hottest striker in the league and I’ll hitch my saddle to him. 2-1 FCC wins this one in a match the SoccerDon surely won’t miss 😉
After nursing rolled ankles from playing over a pitcher’s mound and turf seams, the Rowdies will be nursing their egos after facing the rejuvenated Orange and Blue. Merely eight weeks since Cincinnati made some major personnel and lineup changes, supporters saw the potential of what this talented roster can do. If Cincinnati shows up with the same intensity as they played during the home opener, they will defeat the Rowdies; Three goals to One.
I think FCC gained some momentum after that Home victory and I think they found a new recipe for success. However, I think what occurred Saturday will be difficult to reproduce from an offensive standpoint. Defensively, I think Kadeem, Kenney, and Corben played extremely well and although we did not dominate possession we controlled momentum. I do not feel FCC is built to absorb and counter but I do think this team has realized making it difficult for opponents to get easy penetrating passes into our area starting 40 yards out can cause frustration. I am predicting we repeat ourselves and get another Widmers Cleaners clean sheet and somehow we find a hole in Tampa Bay’s defense and slide one by for a 1-0 victory.
This is a matchup that many USL fans have circled to tune into since the schedule was released. Both clubs offer a plethora of talent but are still looking to fit all the pieces correctly. A big key for Tampa could be whether Leo Fernandes is fit to play. With Fernandes and winger Michael Nanchoff, Tampa can offer two pacey players on the wings to drive at the FCC back line or play in crosses. Speed kills FC Cincinnati and look for Tampa to utilize their width to create space for Deshorn Brown and Joe Cole. I don’t foresee a spot put up again by Djiby Fall. Tampa has one of the best defensive units in the league, allowing 2 goals this season. I am predicting a 1-1 draw in what would be a good result for either team. I mean, I would have taken that a week ago.
Tampa Bay looked to be the team to beat this year as they were lining up their roster and spending money like they were printing it themselves. Their start was a dream with 3 wins and 3 shutouts. Contrast this to the struggle that the Orange and Blue had in their first 3 games and one might be very concerned. However, these stats are only half the story. Tampa played 3 teams in the bottom half of the table. They played all 3 teams at home. Cincinnati played 2 teams in the top half of the table and all three games at home. In addition, they suffered 2 injuries and a red card. Then we look at last weekend and we see that the Rowdies finally played a team in the top half of the table while on the road. They lost. Cincinnati played the top team in the standings but finally got a home game. They won. Both teams playing a midweek game in a 3 game series over a one week period, depth will play a part and both teams know they face a tough opponent on Saturday. The FCC roster is deeper and Coach Koch rested some great players last weekend who may appear on Wednesday fresh and ready to play and prove themselves. Summarizing all of this we see that Tampa played 3 easy games at home and looked good but fell when they took on quality competition on the road. The Orange and Blue struggled against tough opponents on the road and dealt with some early injuries but once they got back home they knocked down the top team in the standings. Wednesday, at home once again, we have the edge. The Rowdies, again on the road, have shown they are vulnerable. The 12th man may be a little less intense on a Wednesday but we should be able to draw 15k on a weekday. We won’t be able to reproduce the mind blowing home opener of last weekend, but I expect the team to be buoyed by the home crowd and their recent victory. Tampa is going to lock down Djiby but he will still manage to get a goal, and all of the attention he gets will open the door to the first goal of the season by another player. Look for a 2-0 victory for the KSLK.