Cameron Lancaster, Lucky Mkosana and Elijah Wynder have all had big moments in the series between Louisville City FC at the Tampa Bay Rowdies over the past six seasons.
Some rivalries are built through proximity. You can look at the battles between Louisville City FC and Indy Eleven in the LIPAFC or the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Miami FC’s in-state battles for that.
But sometimes the best rivalries are built simply because the two teams are standard by which all others in their conference are measured.
That’s been the case for Louisville City FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies over the past four years, during which time they’ve squared off in four consecutive postseasons and three consecutive Eastern Conference Finals.
Saturday night brings the first regular season clash between the two sides this season as the Rowdies host LouCity at Al Lang Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+). Ahead of that game, here are six iconic finishes that have helped define the series from their past encounters.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies had won the first three games of their USL Championship history when they headed to face Louisville City FC for the first time in Week 4 of the regular season, but it was the hosts that remained undefeated as goals by George Davis IV and Cameron Lancaster led to a 2-1 win at Slugger Field. Lancaster’s perfect chip to beat Tampa Bay’s Matt Pickens on a counterattack provided the insurance goal with three minutes to go and gave a packed house a well-earned victory in the first meeting between the clubs.
Unsurprisingly, Cameron Lancaster makes another appearance in this list with a spectacular second-half free kick at Al Lang Stadium the following season. This goal holds additional significance, however, as it also proved the game-winner in the only time LouCity has won away against the Rowdies in the series between the two teams, a run the current defending Eastern Conference title holders will be aiming to end this weekend.
Of the goals on this list, Andrew Tinari’s holds the least significance. It arrived early in a regular season contest that ended all square between the sides – Abdou Mbacke Thiam scored a late equalizer for LouCity – but we just can’t ignore how ridiculously good this strike is. From that angle off the inside of the post in the top-left corner? Future USL Championship Goalkeeper of the Year Ben Lundt didn’t stand a chance.
Louisville City FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies didn’t square off in the regular season during the shortened 2020 campaign, adding intrigue to an Eastern Conference Final that brought together the two most impressive sides in the conference during the regular season. LouCity was favored having advanced to three consecutive USL Championship Finals, winning two, while having built an eight-game winning streak across the regular season and playoffs. Just three minutes in, however, Zach Steinberger put the Rowdies ahead at Lynn Family Stadium with his only goal of the campaign, paving the way to a 2-1 victory for the visitors.
There have been some big moments in the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ modern history, but there’s no question that Lucky Mkosana’s stoppage-time equalizer in the Eastern Conference Final rematch in 2021 is among the most iconic. From the nature of the buildup at Al Lang Stadium, a set piece that the visitors just couldn’t quite clear, to the explosion of noise when the longtime Rowdie scored his second goal after coming on as a late substitute, it’s gone down in not just club history, but as one of the greatest moments in USL Championship Playoffs history as well.
To contrast with Andrew Tinari’s finish above, this is probably the least pretty of the goals in this list, but its significance is right up there in the history of this series. Elijah Wynder’s scrambled close-range finish in extra time of the third consecutive Eastern Conference Final clash between the two sides served as the winner, with the 19-year-old LouCity Academy product scoring just his second league goal for the club overall in the melee.
This Saturday marks the first meeting between the sides since that contest. Hopefully we’ll get another memorable night in a series that has consistently delivered over the years.