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Match Preview: Penn FC vs Tampa Bay Rowdies

Penn FC returns home hungry for a win

M. Williams/Penn FC

Match: Penn FC vs Tampa Bay Rowdies

Date: Friday, May 4th

Time: 7 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Central, 4 p.m. Pacific, 11 p.m. UTC

Venue: FNB Field (City Island. Harrisburg, PA)

Refs: REF: JAVIER SANTOS ESCOBAR AR1: BEN PILGRIM AR2: GJOVALIN BORI 4TH: BRANDON SMITH

How to Watch: ESPN+ (Subscription Required) WGCB (Local Only)

How Tampa Bay will look: Tampa Bay has been running hot and cold so far in 2018. They’ve managed to pick up four wins to their three losses and they’re the only team in the Eastern Conference that hasn’t had a draw yet this season. But all of their losses have one thing in common, they’ve all come on the road. That was their major issue last year too when they only managed three road wins all season. Of course, one of those road wins came on City Island.

Georgi Hristov continues to be the biggest goal scoring threat for Tampa Bay having already found the back of the net four times in 2018. He’s well on pace to top the 13 goals he scored in 2018. But, once again, the team is scoring much better at home than they are on the road. In fact, they haven’t scored a road goal since their season opener on March 17th.

If you’re looking for former City Islanders, Leo Fernandes is still playing for Tampa Bay and he should make an appearance Friday night. He’ll try and make an offensive impact as well, he’s already scored three goals this season.

How Penn FC will look: Penn FC had gotten themselves a four match unbeaten streak (all draws) before they fell 3-0 to North Carolina FC last weekend. It looked like they were experimenting with a formation change going into that match, so I’d expect that they won’t be repeating that experiment Friday night. They gave up as many goals to NC FC as they have the entire rest of the season.

But problem number one for Penn FC remains scoring goals. They’ve only managed two in six games, so what can they change against Tampa Bay? They have talented, veteran strikers in Tommy Heinemann and Lucky Mkosana, but the ability to create chances for them hasn’t been consistent. So there’s two routes for Penn FC. They’ll either stick to their most recent starting XI in the hopes that the extra time together will help them build some chemistry, or they’ll mix in some new faces in an effort to try and spark the offense.

What to expect: This will be and interesting match up for new Penn FC Head Coach Raoul Voss as he faces his former team for the first time. There’s a lot of roster carry over from last season for Tampa Bay, so Voss should be familiar with what these players are capable of. Expect him to have a solid game plan in place for Friday’s match.

Penn FC only has two goals this season, but they were both nominated for goal of the week. So what that means is, Penn FC needs to find a way to start scoring some easy goals. They don’t get much time with the ball inside the box, and that has kept them from getting any rebounds, loose balls, or any of the other various opportunities to tap a goal in. They need more of those.

Penn FC’s defense won’t be able to sit back and relax either, because the Rowdies attackers will be coming at them all night long. Hristov and Fernandes have been giving defenses headaches all season and they still have guys like Jochen Graf ready to come on and make an impact as well. Penn FC goalkeeper Romu Peiser and defender/captain Ken Tribbett will need to play a near perfect match if they want to keep Tampa Bay from scoring.

There’s still an outside chance that the “Tampa Bay Rowdies are bad on the road” kryptonite will kick in. The best way for Penn FC to get this to kick in is to score early and then try to dominate in the midfield. The Rowdies have a lot of talent up front and on the backline, but they don’t have as much speed available in the midfield. Penn FC will want to control possession the way they did in their early matches and then really make an effort to start putting balls into the box. If the Rowdies are scrambling, something will get through.

PREDICTION: While Tampa Bay’s struggles on the road are well known, it’s tough to pick against them based on how they’ve played so far in 2018. Penn FC will hunker down on defense, but they won’t be able to stop everything. I think the Rowdies get the win on City Island 1-0.