NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two teams trying to make up ground in the Eastern Conference playoff picture square off when Nashville SC hosts the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the USL Game of the Week on Tuesday night (8:30 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN3) at First Tennessee Park.
Tampa Bay enters the contest on the back of an essential 1-0 victory over ATL UTD 2 on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium. Sebastian Guenzatti delivered the game’s only goal in the 30th minute to keep the Rowdies’ playoff hopes alive and move the club within seven points of eighth-placed New York Red Bulls II with six games remaining.
Meanwhile, it has been nearly a week-and-a-half since Nashville overcame a two-goal deficit in the final ten minutes to pick up a pivotal point on the road with a 3-3 draw against fellow East contenders North Carolina FC. NSC defender Liam Doyle says the team has been using that layoff to rest up and prepare for its upcoming run of four games in 12 days.
“It’s nice to have a couple of days off, but we actually did train hard,” Doyle said. “It was a period where we worked on a lot of tactics, getting ready for this last stretch which obviously is an important stretch.”
Nashville currently sits two points behind New York in the East standings, but has played two fewer games. NSC will also have the benefit of playing five of its final seven matches at First Tennessee Park, a place where the side has had a lot of success this season.
NSC has the USL's best defensive record at home this campaign, having recorded nine clean sheets while conceding only five goals on its way to an 8-2-2 record.
Nashville Head Coach Gary Smith says his team has a good mindset entering Tuesday's contest and hopes that additional rest and homefield advantage will help his side pick up three points against a Rowdies squad that will be playing its second game in four days.
“They [the Rowdies] have to adapt to our place, to our support and our environment,” Smith said. “They have played at the weekend, we haven’t. Hopefully, we will be chomping at the bit as they say to get out of the cage and get after them.”
That’s exactly what the Rowdies did in the teams’ first meeting this season – a 1-1 draw on their home turf at Al Lang Stadium – but Tampa Bay failed to make the most of its superior play.
The home side applied plenty of pressure in the game’s early stages, but it was NSC that took the lead in the 22nd minute on a Lebo Moloto goal against the run of play. Tampa Bay retained 56.2 percent of possession and attempted 26 shots in the contest yet trailed for most of it before substitute Leon Taylor snatched an equalizer six minutes from time.
The Rowdies will hope to bring that level of performance with them on the road, something the club has struggled to do this campaign. Tampa Bay has earned just 11 points away from Al Lang Stadium this season (3-8-2) and has failed to score in eight of those matches.
“It’s no secret that we have struggled on the road, but our most recent performances away from home have been good despite some results,” Guenzatti said. “We know we’re a good team and we need to go out and show it.”