Louisville City FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies will meet in the Eastern Conference Final for a third consecutive season with each side having taken victory on home turf during the regular season campaign. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville Ci
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville City FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies will meet with silverware on the line for a third consecutive postseason on Saturday night in the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs presented by Hisense at Lynn Family Stadium. The contest will be the fourth consecutive postseason in which the sides have clashed, with the clash at Lynn Family Stadium scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET and set to air on ESPN+.
No. 1-seed LouCity advanced to its eighth consecutive Eastern Conference Final in dramatic fashion this past Saturday night as it rallied late in regulation to earn a 2-2 draw before advancing 5-3 in a penalty shootout against No.-5 seed Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. Manny Perez and Cameron Lancaster scored just under two minutes apart for the side, with Perez’s goal his first for the club before Lancaster converted from the penalty spot with five minutes to go to bring the sides level. Academy products Joshua Wynder, Elijas Wynder and Carlos Moguel Jr. also played a key role in the comeback before Joshua Wynder and Moguel both scored from the spot in the shootout, with Moguel’s goal the decisive blow in the fifth round after goalkeeper Danny Faundez had made a key save in the opening round from Pittsburgh’s Danny Griffin. LouCity is aiming for its first Eastern Conference title since 2019, when it defeated the Rowdies 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals behind two goals from Magnus Rasmussen. The hosts will be eager to reverse consecutive defeats to the Rowdies in the past two postseasons.
The No. 3-seed Rowdies will try to claim their third consecutive Eastern Conference crown, meanwhile, after claiming a last-gasp 1-0 victory against No.-2 seed Memphis 901 FC on Sunday evening at AutoZone Park thanks to a stoppage-time penalty kick by Leo Fernandes. The veteran playmaker scored from the spot in the ninth minute of stoppage time, marking the latest regulation game-winning goal in Championship Playoffs history, after Tampa Bay goalkeeper Phil Breno had denied a spot kick by Memphis’ Aaron Molloy earlier in stoppage time. The Rowdies will be looking for a sharper attacking display as they head to Louisville with Fernandes’ 20th goal of the season coming on the side’s lone shot on target in the game, particularly considering that in Tampa Bay’s most recent visit to Louisville the side was held without a shot on target in a 1-0 defeat on August 13 that saw LouCity’s Wilson Harris score the only goal. Having won in extra time at Al Lang Stadium thanks in part to Lucky Mkosana’s heroics late in regular time and in 2020 at Lynn Family Stadium, the Rowdies will be aiming to keep their playoff edge on their perennial rival.
28 – Louisville City FC has scored 28 goals from set pieces in the 2022 season across the regular season and playoffs, the most in the Championship, with 11 goals coming from corner kicks and 10 from the penalty spot.
5 – The Tampa Bay Rowdies have conceded only five goals from set pieces in the 2022 season across the regular season and playoffs, the fewest of any team in the Championship, with Phil Breno’s penalty save against Memphis the first spot kick the side had conceded this season.
Players to Watch
Louisville City FC – Manny Perez: The former United States youth international has been a key addition to LouCity this season, leading the team in duels won, tackles won and interceptions while commanding the right flank.
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Aaron Guillen: The center back was voted to his second consecutive Championship All-League Team on Tuesday, leads his side in minutes played and clearances, and will look to put in another strong shift on Saturday.
538.com Match Predictor: Louisville City FC 60%, Tampa Bay Rowdies 40%