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Tampa Bay Rowdies set to take on defending champion Louisville City

The Saturday night matchup on the road with be a tough test for Tampa Bay, which has clinched a playoff spot but hosting is still up for grabs.
Lucky Mkosana appears in a match against the Ottawa Fury FC at Al Lang Stadium on June 29, 2019. The Rowdies won the match 2-1. [MATT MAY | Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies]
Published Sep. 27

ST. PETERSBURG — When the Rowdies travel to Kentucky to take on Louisville City FC on Saturday night, one member of Tampa Bay’s club will be back in familiar surroundings.

Lucky Mkosana, the forward Tampa Bay acquired from Louisville in a midseason trade, said he is excited to play in an energetic Louisville Slugger Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m., but he also knows what’s at stake as the Rowdies enter their last month of the regular season.

“We want to go out there and get a win,” Mkosana said. “Obviously, I played there before. I know the fans and the guys on the team, but I feel like it’s going to be a business trip on Saturday.”

Tampa Bay and Louisville first faced off on April 13, playing to a 1-1 draw at Al Lang Stadium. At the time, Mkosana was on the visitor’s bench in St. Petersburg. Since joining the Rowdies in a June 28 trade that sent Antoine Hoppenot to Louisville, Mkosana has four goals for Tampa Bay. On Saturday, he makes his return to Louisville in a Rowdies uniform.

Louisville City, the two-time defending USL champions, will present a stiff challenge for the Rowdies.

“They put teams under pressure at home,” Mkosana said of Louisville. “I feel like we have to respond with the same energy. We can’t give them time to breathe or time to get comfortable.”

The Rowdies (16-6-8) clinched a playoff spot last week despite a 1-0 loss to the Ottawa Fury FC on Sept. 18. After the mid-week loss, Tampa Bay rebounded at home with a 6-1 rout of Bethlehem Steel FC last Saturday.

“(At the) end of a long week, a disappointing week, I think they respond to adversity well,” said Rowdies coach Neill Collins. “They refocused after a rough trip to Ottawa.”

Collins wants his team to push their way to the top of the United Soccer League’s Eastern Conference standings. With 56 points, the Rowdies are currently tied with Indy Eleven and New York Red Bulls II atop the conference

Indy has a game in hand. It has played 29 matches while Tampa Bay and New York have played 30.

Two more clubs, Nashville and Pittsburgh, have 55 points for the season. The top five clubs in the east, separated by only one point, have all punched their postseason tickets.

Louisville (14-7-8) is currently sixth in the east with 50 points, and the club is still looking to clinch its playoff spot. In its last match, Louisville outslugged New York 5-3.

“They’re the champions,” Collins said of Louisville City. “You’re going in to play one of the best teams in the league.”

With only four matches left, a win and three points on Saturday can help the Rowdies secure a top-four seed, a first-round bye and a home playoff match.

“If we perform the way we have,” Collins said, “I expect we’ll pick up the points and put us in a good position.”


  1. The Rowdies' Afrim Taku (26) walks away as Louisville City celebrates one of its two first-half goals Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. EMDASHPHOTO.COM      |  EM Dash Photography, LLC
    The Rowdies fall to two-time defending champion Louisville City 2-1 in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
  2. Tampa Bay forward Sebastian Guenzatti says the Rowdies aren't too worried about Louisville City FC's “turf monster,” which tends to trip up players. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tampa Bay, which hasn’t won in the past four matches, faces Louisville City FC in the USL Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
  3. Juan Tejada (right) and the Rowdies could not contain the Hartford Athletic in a 2-1 loss Saturday night. Hartford Athletic
    Tampa Bay’s loss means it will start the postseason with a tall order
  4. Tampa Bay Rowdies coach Neill Collins celebrates with players in a match against Memphis 901 FC at Al Lang Stadium on Aug. 24. MATT MAY  |  Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies
    Tampa Bay takes on Hartford Athletic on the road at in its final regular-season game Saturday.
  5. Is Saturday's game the last of the season at Al Lang Stadium for the Rowdies? MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times
    Tampa Bay settles for a tie with Indy Eleven with one game remaining in the regular season.
  6. Ralph's Mob cheers on the Tampa Bay Rowdies as they take on the Charleston Battery on Saturday, June 15, 2019, at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    The loss puts more importance on next weekend’s game with Indy Eleven.
  7. Lucky Mkosana appears in a match against the Ottawa Fury FC at Al Lang Stadium on June 29, 2019. The Rowdies won the match 2-1. MATT MAY  |  Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies
    The Saturday night matchup on the road with be a tough test for Tampa Bay, which has clinched a playoff spot but hosting is still up for grabs.
  8. The playoff-bound Rowdies are giving fans plenty of reasons to cheer. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    With better postseason seeding a possibility, Tampa Bay blasts Bethlehem Steel FC 6-1.
  9. Rowdies fans wave flags ahead of a 2017 game at Al Lang Field. (Times   |   2017)
    Tampa Bay gets in with Charleston’s loss to Atlanta.
  10. The Rowdies take on Atlanta United 2 at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. MATT MAY  |  Tampa Bay Rowdies
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