The Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Venue: MSU Soccer Park in beautiful Montclair, New Jersey
The Manager: Former Scotland B international Neill Collins (Manager since May 2018, replacing Stuart Campbell)
The Formation: 3-4-1-2 or 3-5-2. One of the first things that Collins did upon taking the reins from Stuart Campbell was transition to a three centerback formation. Initial struggles bore fruit in 2019 and the Rowdies had a resurgence. Not only that, but the Rowdies posted a +28 goal differential during the regular season in 2019, after being at exactly even goal differential in 2018. This improvement and change in formation helped catapult the Rowdies to 5th in the East during 2019.
The Threats: Sebastián Guenzatti, the 26 year old Uruguayan has been with the Rowdies since 2017, and also doubles as the team captain. He exploded for 19 goals in the 2019 USL season and finally began to come into his own. His strike partner is the Panamanian under-23 international Juan Tejada. Tejada scored ten times in 2019 (including a brace against RB2) in his first professional season after leaving Division II school, Eckerd College. Expect a potential backline to include former RB2 defender Jordan Scarlett and former FC Cincinnati defender Forrest Lasso. Former TFC midfielder Malik Johnson, ex-Philadelphia Union man and longtime Rowdies stalwart Leo Fernandes make up some more names to watch.
Who Are Ya: Although the Tampa Bay Rowdies are a continuation of a brand that stretches back to the 1970s, there is no actual connection between the modern USL team and the NASL side of old. The Rowdies jumped ship from the crumbling modern NASL for the 2017 season and will be contesting their fourth straight season in the USL Championship. A playoff team in all but one of their seasons since joining from the NASL, they carried on the momentum from the other league. The Tampa Bay Rowdies were one of the NASL’s more successful franchises and even won the championship in 2012. The Rowdies had previously played in the USL Conference of the USSF 2010 Division II league that was set up while the upstart NASL jostled with the USL for position.
Familiar Faces: Evan Louro (Goalkeeper, all-time appearance leader for RB2), Jordan Scarlett (Defender, 2nd all-time appearance leader for RB2)
Previous Games: Last year both games ended 2-0, with the first fixture being won by the Rowdies and the second fixture win by RB2. The first game was notable for the injury suffered by now retired RB2 player Sean McSherry. Each game also happened to feature a brace, by Juan Tejada and Mathias Jørgensen respectively. As this is the opener for both teams, neither club has any prior 2020 competitive fixtures to draw off of. The Tampa Bay Rowdies have yet to win a game at MSU Soccer Park.