(WFLA) The Tampa Bay Rowdies enter Tuesday night’s second round U.S. Open Cup match as the favorite to beat The Villages SC of USL League Two. If the Rowdies are victorious in their next two cup matches, they will enter the stage with clubs from Major League Soccer.
But through ten games of the USL Championship without a defeat, the Rowdies will take nothing for granted. It was nearly one year ago to the day that a favored Rowdies team travelled to Jacksonville to face lower division NPSL team, the Jacksonville Armada, in round two. The Rowdies were sent home with a 1-0 defeat.
“Last year, how the team was, we were kind of broken.” forward Sebastian Guenzatti said. ” We were still trying to fix our team together, new players.”
The Rowdies were in the midst of a downward spiral in the first half of their regular season. The loss to Jacksonville marked a moment of sudden change. Head Coach Stuart Campbell was dismissed the following day. And two days after playing in the loss, defender Neill Collins was taken from the field and promoted to head coach.
“That’s not the way you want to finish your career,” Collins said. “Definitely wasn’t the most enjoyable night. But again, what it did was put me in this position.”
The position Collins is in, is architect of a complete turnaround. The Rowdies made mulitple roster moves to finish the 2018 season on a positive note, just missing a playoff spot in the USL Eastern Conference. This year, five wins and five draws to start the 2019 campaign. The Rowdies are the lone unbeaten team in the league’s top division, the USL Championship.
On Tuesday, the Rowdies will face a team from USL League Two, the third division. The Villages advanced last week with a thrilling first round victory over another League Two opponent, the Lakeland Tropics. They know what happened to the Rowdies in this game last year as well. And Al Lang Stadium will be on upset alert.
“We know we have a very highly motivated team coming here tomorrow night,” Colins said. “One that we’ll pay our respect.”
“As we showed the first ten games of the league, we’ve been doing very good,” Guenzatti said. “We have something special going on and I think that the U.S. Open Cup is our chance to prove what kind of team we are.”
Tuesday’s game at Al Lang Stadium is free to attend. Gates open at 6:00 pm and is is not necessary to print out or pick up tickets. Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm.