The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Miami FC will renew their rivalry this Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium in one of the premier feuds in the USL Championship. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
One of the USL Championship’s biggest rivalries renews on Saturday night when the Tampa Bay Rowdies play host to Miami FC at Al Lang Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+). Since the South Florida club’s arrival in the Championship three years ago, the Rowdies have mainly held the upper hand, with its success in the regular season added to by victory in the first playoff meeting last year.
As important as the result will be on Saturday night – particularly given both sides’ slow start to the current campaign – there’s also the potential it could give us another highlight-reel goal to remember.
If anything, those have been the moments that have defined where the rivalry has been over the past three seasons, with one player standing above the rest as the defining figure of the rivalry so far.
Ahead of Saturday’s meeting, here are five goals that stand above the rest in the series so far.
There’s no getting around how the Rowdies dominated the 2020 series after Miami joined the Championship for the first time. Tampa Bay won three of the four meetings between the sides as they drew once as it drove toward an Eastern Conference title while Miami missed out on the postseason.
Malik Johnson’s exclamation point on the Rowdies’ 3-0 victory at Riccardo Silva Stadium was the embodiment of that year. The Canadian languidly cut in from the right past two Miami defenders – who offered little resistance – and finished precisely into the bottom-left corner of the net. For Rowdies fans, it was a beautiful sight.
By the time July arrived in the 2021 season, Miami was going on four years without a win against Tampa Bay – and that in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. In league play, Miami had still to beat the Rowdies until Callum Chapman-Page proved the unlikely hero at Riccardo Silva Stadium.
The English center back – who had arrived in South Florida in 2017 to play for NCAA Division II program Palm Beach Atlantic University – scored his second goal in the Championship with a lunging back-post header to get on the end of an angled cross by Christiano Francois to lift Miami to a 2-1 victory.
In the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ history, there has been no-one who has scored more goals than Sebastian Guenzatti. What’s more, during his time with the Rowdies, there was no team he enjoyed scoring more against than Miami. With eight goals in 10 games at a strike rate of a goal every 84.6 minutes across the regular season and playoffs, Guenzatti’s goal total against Tampa Bay’s rival is the most any player has scored against an individual opponent in the USL Championship.
The veteran forward’s first goal of two in this 3-0 victory was also special for another reason. Clocking in at the 2:04 mark of the first half – a classic close-range finish after Leo Fernandes stole possession and provided the perfect set-up – it’s the fastest goal in a game between the clubs since they renewed their rivalry three years ago.
Even before Miami FC joined the USL Championship three years ago, the Rowdies’ home of Al Lang Stadium hadn’t been an enjoyable place for the South Florida side to visit. It had only claimed two points in five visits going into the 2022 Championship regular season, having twice been defeated by three-goal margins.
That changed last season, when Pierre Da Silva’s goal five minutes into the second half of the first battle between the sides proved the difference in a 1-0 win for the visitors. Reacting quickly to a parried initial shot by El Salvador international Joshua Perez, Da Silva roofed his finish into the net to earn his side a memorable victory.
Nicky Law’s time with Tampa Bay was brief – the English midfielder arrived with the Rowdies from Indy Eleven in July of the 2022 season, and then departed after the campaign concluded – but he left his mark during the first postseason contest between the two Florida clubs last October.
With the game level just before the hour-mark, and Miami struggling to clear pressure from the hosts at Al Lang Stadium, the ball bounced loose to the top of the penalty area. There was a waiting Law, whose half-volley arrowed into the back of the net and drew a massive roar from the crowd – and color commentator Ryan Davis – before ending up the game-winner in a 3-1 victory for the Green and Gold.