ST. PETERSBURG — For the first time in their United Soccer League stint, the Rowdies can draw on a time-tested source of inspiration for athletic endeavors: revenge.
For the first time as a USL member, Tampa Bay is facing a team it has lost to. Louisville City comes to Al Lang Stadium for Saturday's 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
"We need payback. There's a little bit of fire in my belly," said defender Damion Lowe.
Tampa Bay has posted shutouts in five of eight games, including four at home, but Louisville scored twice in an April 15 victory at Slugger Field.
The Rowdies (4-2-2) have turned in consecutive blankings, but the offense could not hold its end last Saturday in a scoreless draw at Ottawa. The point has Tampa Bay two behind first-place Charleston, and two up on third-place Louisville.
Justin Chavez did head in what Tampa Bay thought was a goal early, but it was overturned for Leo Fernandes being an offside position.
"We've done well defensively, and (at times) we've scored a decent amount of goals. We're looking to combine both of them this week," said coach Stuart Campbell.
Saturday's game takes on additional importance because Louisville has played two fewer contests.
"It's gonna be competitive. They have good players, I know a couple on their team and they're already hyped and looking forward to the battle," Lowe said.
He added that the Rowdies, the last game being an early afternoon start, are well rested — but they better enjoy that advantage while it's here. The Rowdies return to Al Lang on Tuesday for a U.S. Open Cup match against former NASL rival Jacksonville, then it's back to league play Friday at Toronto, a swing to Rochester on May 24 then a home game May 27.
That's four games in 15 days, although Campbell may choose to dip into the reserves for Tuesday's Cup contest.
But first: revenge time.
"They're stoked about it," midfielder Justin Chavez said of his teammates' attitude. "They're ready to play. It's still in the back of their heads (Louisville) took three points from us."