Rowdies vs. St. Louis
When/where: 6; Steinbrenner Field, Tampa
The opponent: St. Louis (5-11-7, 22 points) holds fifth place in the six-team U.S. Soccer Federation Division 2 NASL Conference, six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. St. Louis was 1-1-3 on its recently completed five-match homestand, but it hasn't won since a 3-0 victory over Portland on July 28.
Previous meeting: Tonight is the final of two league meetings between the sides. The Rowdies won the first match 3-0 in St. Louis on May 22. Long Tan had a goal and an assist in the victory.
Playoff picture: The Rowdies (6-9-9, 27) have six regular-season games left and sit just outside the playoffs in ninth place (top eight advance), one point behind eighth-place Minnesota. Four of the six games are at home, the remaining opponents have a combined record of 53-53-39, and the Rowdies are 3-5-2 against them.
Getting defensive: Rowdies coach Paul Dalglish called the first half of Tampa Bay's 2-1 home loss to Carolina on Wednesday his team's worst defensive effort of the season, even going so far as to apologize to fans for the team's effort. Tampa Bay allowed two Railhawks goals in the first 40 minutes. Dalglish said the practices since have been focused around the team's defensive shape.
Coaching change: Former Rowdies player Rodney Marsh will serve as assistant coach tonight, replacing technical director Perry Van Der Beck, who was suspended for a game after being sent off by referees during Wednesday's loss.
Team notes: Rowdies forward Aaron King is third in the league with nine goals. … Midfielder Ricardo Sanchez has four goals in six games since being acquired from Vancouver.
Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer