Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Sports

Rowdies return home with seven-game winless streak

ST. PETERSBURG — If for nothing else than to make the postgame musical act's signature hit seem meaningful, the Rowdies need to pull off a win Thursday night.

There has not been a celebration for them in some time. Tampa Bay, holder of a seven-game winless streak dating to May 19, hosts Cincinnati.

Kool and the Gang will perform after the game at Al Lang Stadium, a place the Rowdies played once in June. "Swoon" is too kind of a word to describe what has taken place for them.

At one point a top-seed hopeful in the USL's Eastern Conference, the Rowdies aren't even a sure bet to be among the eight conference teams (out of 15) that make the playoffs.

Tampa Bay (6-5-6) sits in fourth place, but at 24 points, it is just four ahead of three clubs tied for that eighth spot. Two have multiple games in hand, including Rochester with four.

Charleston, which dumped the Rowdies 2-0 on Saturday night, is 10 points clear in first place, and though the next two teams look within range of the Rowdies, Louisville (28 points) and Charlotte (25) have three games in hand each.

Four of the Rowdies' next five games are at Al Lang, though, and Tampa Bay even gets a third crack at Charleston. The 32-game schedule has the Rowdies facing three opponents an extra contest beyond the normal home-and-home.

"Very, very excited to be back home and to be back with our fans," defender Darnell King said. "We need to get a win for them.

"It's about sticking together after a couple of losses, don't get too down on ourselves because that's not going to help anything. We have to stay positive, stay together. And get goals."

King said "bonehead errors" defensively have led the Rowdies to be without a shutout in their past eight games after getting six in their first nine. The offense hasn't scored multiple goals in more than a month, hurt by the continued absence of playmaking midfielder Michael Nanchoff and Leo Fernandes due to injuries. Defender Damian Lowe is playing for Jamaica in the Gold Cup.

Cincinnati recently stunned MLS Chicago in the U.S. Open Cup to advance to the quarterfinals but has just one win in its past five league games.

"They're a good attacking team," Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell said. "We're going to have to be on guard."

Cincinnati's Djiby Fall has eight goals, fourth in the USL, and that's with missing six games due to a suspension.

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