Match: Harrisburg City Islanders vs Tampa Bay Rowdies
Date: Wednesday, September 6th
Time: 6:30 p.m. Eastern, 5:30 p.m. Central, 3:30 p.m. Pacific, 10:30 p.m. UTC
Venue: FNB Field (Harrisburg, PA)
Refs: REF: BARDHYL PASHAJ AR1: Dan Stupca AR2: Patrick Sudol 4TH: Mark Treilman
How Tampa Bay will look: The Rowdies got their Northeastern tour off to a poor start last Saturday when they fell 4-2 against New York Red Bulls II. But that’s actually pretty typical for Tampa Bay in 2017 since they’ve only managed one win away from home this season. The reason they are sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and not much higher is because they’ve only managed eight points on the road all season.
Despite that, Tampa Bay will be the heavy favorites going into Wednesday’s match. So there’s a chance that they will be looking ahead to Saturday’s match in Bethlehem when it comes to roster selection. The Rowdies are doing a lot of traveling for three matches in eight days, so a little roster rotation is to be expected. So maybe somebody like Martin Peterson or Marcel Shafer ends up on the bench to start off the match.
How Harrisburg will look: Harrisburg has been laying low for the past two weeks after they were systematically dismantled by Louisville City FC. The time off should have given them a chance to rest and recuperate, but it also pretty much sealed their fate as far as their playoff hopes are concerned. The City Islanders are now in “have to win every match” territory with only seven matches left to play, so they’re pretty much playing for pride at this point.
Expect to see players like Pedro Ribeiro finding their way back onto the pitch after dealing with injuries earlier in the season. This added depth is going to be crucial for the City Islanders as they are about to squeeze in another stretch of four matches in eleven days. And maybe, just maybe, the returning players will help Harrisburg score a goal. If they do, it’ll be Harrisburg’s first since July 18th.
What to expect: The last time the two teams met, the Rowdies went up in the 15th minute and they never looked back. Part of the reason they were able to control so much of that match was because they won a crazy amount of corner kicks, including eight in the first half alone. Harrisburg has continued to struggle when defending corners, so expect the Rowdies to push deep with an eye towards winning some corners early in the match.
If the City Islanders want to prevail over the Rowdies, they’ll need to play more like they did back in late June. Possession will be the name of the game for Harrisburg, and they’ll need to focus on moving the ball with a greater sense of purpose and control than they have in recent matches. Sloppy play has lead to turnovers and turnovers have lead to too many goals scored against the City Islanders. That’s a huge problem for a team they plays their worst soccer when they’re playing from behind.
There’s going to be a third participant to consider in Wednesday’s match, and that’s the weather. Harrisburg was nailed with thunderstorms on Tuesday, and Wednesday’s current forecast is for more rain and much cooler temperatures. That much wet weather could lead to a more conservative match with one or two fluke goals coming about due to various slips, slides, or errors.
PREDICTION: Harrisburg has been listless, but Tampa Bay has been facing their own struggles, particularly on the road. Combine that with an uncertain weather forecast and I think this one stays close, and ultimately ends up 1-1.