In on of the few cross-conference matches this season, Real Monarchs SLC have headed east to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the waterfront stadium. With an elevation of less than 10 ft above sea level in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, Al Stadium was originally built in 1947 as a spring training facility for Major League Baseball. It has been upgraded and modified several times since built has recently become a soccer-specific facility and will receive further upgrades in the near future as Tampa Bay seeks to obtain a MLS expansion bid.
Unlike many of their opponents in the Western Conference who are developmental sides for the parent or affiliated MLS clubs, Tampa Bay is an independent club in the vein of Sacramento Republic. The current incarnation was founded in 2008 and first took the pitch in 2010 in the USSF Division two for a single season before moving to the NASL until last season when they moved over to the USL. Winners of the 2012 Soccer Bowl (with Jeff Attinella in goal) their crest has two stars with the second in remembrance of their namesake’s victory in the 1975 Soccer Bowl in the original NASL.
Without any direct developmental role the current Rowdies have the oldest squad in the USL and rely upon their experience and ball skill much more than speed and athleticism. Max Lachowecki, who spent two years with the Monarchs after graduating from Notre Dame is one of the young guns on this team which prominently features a 36-year-old Joe Cole as the frequent captain.
The same 9 players have started in each of the Rowdies 5 matches so far this season, and the number would be 10 ten except for Joe Cole missing a single start. Many are no longer able to go for a full 90 in each and every match, but they know their teammates tendencies extremely well and play good cohesive football.
While their overall record for 2018 stands at 3-2-0, they are undefeated in their two home matches and are yet to give up a goal at home this season. Those matches were, however, against two sides that have only 4 points out of their 8 matches this season. Last week they traveled to Harrison, New Jersey and were blown out by the Baby Bulls in a 5-0 embarrassment which should leave them looking to atone against the Monarchs at home.
Take a moment to look at the highlights of the Tampa Bay v. Red Bulls 2 match paying special attention to how and where the Baby Bulls found success and then join me to see what the Monarchs will need to do for a four victory on the road and five straight to open the season
Hopefully you noticed several lay off passes to players at the top of the goal which led to a number of the Baby Bulls goals. Now watch the first goal by Masta Kacher against Seattle Sounders 2 featuring a great little layoff pass from Jose Hernandez.
If the Monarchs can emulate the Baby Bulls and get a few of these along with a set piece or two their chances against the old legs of Tampa Bay look bright indeed.