There is no room for error for the Loons. A month ago, Minnesota was eight points ahead of Tampa Bay in the standings. While the Loons have collapsed, the Rowdies have built momentum and erased their deficit. Tonight’s match is huge for both teams with nobody wanting to walk away with fewer than all three points.
Minnesota lost four in a row only two other times in club history. The last time was in 2013. In a streak spanning the Spring and Fall Seasons, the Loons fell to the Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, and the Atlanta Silverbacks (twice). The time before that was in 2011, with a losing streak in the middle of the Fall Season. They went on to win the championship that year.
Tampa Bay is unbeaten in their last six games.
Minnesota leads the all-time series 12-7-8, having scored 40 goals and conceded 36 against Tampa Bay. This season, the two teams traded 2-0 victories with both games played in Blaine.
On Wednesday, the Rowdies will host the Loons for the first time in 2016. Minnesota holds a 6-4-4 all-time record at Tampa Bay, along with a plus-one goal differential (25 goals for versus 24 against).
Vazquez has been in the middle for six NASL matches in 2016, averaging just under four yellows issued per match and no reds.
Damion Lowe and Steward Ceus will both miss the match as they have been called-up to represent Jamaica and Haiti, respectively, in the Caribbean Cup Qualifying. This is well-timed for Lowe, who received his fifth yellow card of the Fall Season after the whistle on Saturday and would otherwise be serving a one game suspension.
The Minnesota squad is the healthiest it’s been all year, but Greg Jordan remains out and Jeb(!) Brovsky and Bernardo Añor are still recovering from injury.
Tampa Bay starter Stefan Antonijevic is out with a hamstring injury sustained in the match last Saturday.
The Rowdies hosted Miami FC for the first time on Saturday October 1. Eric Avila scored for Tampa Bay in the 31st minute and Miami’s Rhett Bernstein equalized in the 74th. Both teams were looking for a win to put them into fourth place on the Combined Table, but the draw brought them both even with United on points in the Combined Table.
Matt Pickens started in goal with Darnell King, Tamika Mkandawire, Stefan Antonijevic, and PC forming the backline. Martin Vingaard and Justin Chavez held the middle while Eric Avila and Georgi Hristov pushed forward on the right and left, respectively. Joe Cole could often be found playing off Carlos Preciado’s left, where he made a few key passes. Preciado, who has yet to score this season, played as a center forward.
Both Minnesota and Tampa Bay are looking for a win. The Rowdies have the home advantage as well as recent, trending success on the pitch, while Minnesota is in the midst of its worst run of form in more than three years. A win for Minnesota would not only break that losing streak and put some space between itself and Tampa Bay and Miami in the combined table, but could also be the turning point for the remainder of its season.
The Loons will need to play with the energy and cohesiveness demonstrated early in the Spring Season. They will need to be aggressive in both the attack, and in maintaining the back line against the Rowdies, who rank second in the league in shots taken. The Minnesota defense will need to keep its eye on Georgi Hristov, who was recently awarded NASL Player of the Week for his hat trick in Fort Lauderdale.
The Rowdies will look to capitalize on their unbeaten streak, and take over the fourth place in the table. Tampa Bay likes to get on the scoreboard early. If they come out strong and manage a first-half goal, it could prove insurmountable for the Loons, who have struggled to rally when conceding first.
The match begins at 6:30 p.m. CDT and will air on My29.
Kyle Eliason contributed to this report.