Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)
Record: 3W-3T-2L – 6th Place – 12 points
Stream: YouTubeWednesday June 1st – 7:30 p.m.
The 7,500 seat Al Lang Stadium will play host to Wednesday night’s US Open Cup match between FC Cincinnati and the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Rowdies announced that tickets would be available free-of-charge in advance of game day. On Tuesday morning, the Rowdies announced that all free tickets had been distributed for the game. Tampa Bay has enjoyed a good following since their move to Al Lang, including their supporters section known as Ralph’s Mob. This should be a fun atmosphere to watch, as the Open Cup is the only path where The Rowdies and FC Cincinnati can advance to the Concacaf Champions League.
On May 4th, former Premier League veteran and England International, Joe Cole joined the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Following stints at West Ham, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Lille among others, Cole made the decision stating “this was the one (situation) that ticked all the boxes: football wise and for the family as well.” Cole who brings experience representing England at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups, has already scored 1 goal in his 3 appearances. His goal and assist this weekend in a match vs. Minnesota earned Cole NASL Player of the Week honors. After logging 90 minutes on the weekend, it is uncertain if Cole will start. However, if the game is close, we may get the treat of watching this high caliber player.
Who is going to score for Rowdies?
As previously mentioned, Joe Cole did notch 1 this weekend along with Eric Avila, but US Open Cup matches seem to feature squad players in early rounds. The Rowdies have been hurting for goals as they average 1 goal per game. Tom Heinemann has been their starter up front in a 4-2-3-1, but was injured in a tackle against the New York Cosmos. Heinemann did not feature in the 18 over the weekend, and may be replaced by Danny Mwanga or Georgi Hristov. Kalif Alhassan and Michael Nanchoff have provided good service to their forwards, but finishing has not been the strongest this season.
Most FC Cincinnati fans are awaiting the return of captain and center back Austin Berry to the lineup since being injured in practice following the Toronto FC II match. Backup Paul Nicholson has filled in admirably, but Berry has been listed as day-to-day and should be the starter upon his return. Harrison Delbridge took a beating this weekend vs. Harrisburg as you can see below. We will see if Harkes chooses to give him time to heal in favor of backup Evan Lee. The Rowdies are dealing with a big injury of their own as left back Zac Portillos went down injured over the weekend.
Bend Not Break
In this past weekend’s match vs. Minnesota, Tampa was out possessed 54% to 46%, but was still able to win 2-0. The Rowdies defense continues to dominate on balls in the air and wins a majority of 50-50 balls and tackles. Through 8 games, Tampa has notched 4 clean sheets and average 0.9 goals against per game. This could be a match where Coach Harkes employs veteran Forward Omar Cummings to make smart runs between the back 4. FC Cincinnati will need to offer several avenues of attack to keep the Tampa defense guessing.
It’s Going to be a Battle
Tampa Bay is a physical team. The Rowdies rank first in the NASL in Yellow accumulated (21), which also accounts for the 2nd most amount of fouls in the league. They win roughly 72% of their tackles and offer a supreme aerial advantage of 60%. With a pressing team in Tampa, FC Cincinnati must be careful in not losing possession in our own third where the Rowdies could capitalize. The back four will also need to be physical and dominate on the many crossing chances that they will encounter.
Much Adu About Nothing – Who Will We See?
The one-time “next Pelé” has not found the field yet in 2016. Adu delivered 3 assists over 8 games after signing for Tampa in 2015. Freddy signed by former USMNT legend Thomas Rongen is now with his 13th professional club and has not featured since a preseason game on March 22nd. Per a tweet from Guardian reporter Bob Williams, we should see Adu in action Wednesday night.
For Columbus Crew SC fans out there, Tampa Bay may feature former left back Ben Sweat in place of the injured Zac Portillos. Check out the image below with my expected starting XI. Since being “tied” together, the winner of this match will relish an opportunity vs. MLS side Columbus Crew SC. Many FC Cincinnati fans are hoping to see the I-71/Hell is Real Derby and wish Coach Harkes to use a first-choice lineup. I went with a hybrid. We will need strength against this squad and could very well use a good veteran presence in Omar Cummings.
— Bob Williams (@WilliamsBob75) June 1, 2016
— Tampa Bay Rowdies (@TampaBayRowdies) March 23, 2016
Couple extra thoughts. The game is slated to kick off at 7:30 p.m. There is a 35% chance of rain around game time with a forecasted temperature of 86 degrees. This could lead to a muggy and humid night. US Open Cup rules allow for only 3 substitutions compared to 5 for USL play.
Per fiftyfive.one, USL clubs have had a .750 winning percentage vs. NASL clubs since 2012 including going 7-0 vs. them in 2015. – Mike Pendelton @phat7deuce
Fans can watch the match on the Tampa Bay Rowdies YouTube channel. We will also be trying to live tweet the game at @CincySoccerLive
Die Innenstadt is hosting a watch party at Rhinehaus in OTR.
The Pride is hositng a watch party at Molly Malones in Covington.