By: Caleb Hilliard
After another defeat in the closing minutes last Saturday and 11 matches remaining , Memphis need all 33 points remaining.
The next match Saturday, August 24 at the Tampa Bay Rowdies, will be one of the more difficult challenges of the season.
The two teams met in Memphis on the first match-day and the Rowdies narrowly edged the hosts, 1-0.
The Rowdies were atop the Eastern Conference for most of the season.
They currently sit third behind the New York Red Bulls and North Carolina FC.
What to watch for: Tampa Bay Rowdies
Tampa Bay nearly remained unbeaten through June and July, but their six-match unbeaten came to an abrupt stop in New York.
They lost a critical match to NYRB II, 0-2 and lost the Eastern Conference lead to their northern foes.
After a 5-0 drubbing of the Charlotte Battery, Tampa Bay failed to gain any points in 0-1 loss to the Birmingham Legion.
The Rowdies had 11 days without a match in preparation for the Wednesday night nationally televised bout at home to third place North Carolina FC.
NCFC had 23 points and a goal-differential of 21. The Rowdies had 26 points and a GD of 19, heading into the match.
North Carolina proved victorious in an end-to-end, 4-2 nail biter, at Al Land Stadium.
The loss meant NCFC would leapfrog the Rowdies into second in the table, due to GD.
Despite losing three out of their last five matches, Tampa are still one of the offensively lethal teams in the USL Championship.
They have the eleventh most goals in the USL (41).
Central forward, Sebastian Guenzatti leads the vicious attack.
The Uruguayan has 19 goals in 57 appearances since joining the Rowdies in 2017.
Guenzatti has the third most goals (13) and the ninth most shot attempts (50) in the USL.
His usual striking partner, Lucky Mkosana has the third most goals on the team (7).
The Rowdies also have one of the most talented goalkeepers in the USL, John McCarthy.
He signed for the Rowdies at the start of 2019 and has nine clean sheets through 19 appearances, the second most in the USL.
However, he has not been featured in the last four matches and is questionable for the upcoming match, due to a strained hamstring.
His backup, Macklin Robinson conceded eight goals through five appearances.
Robinson should be in good hands as the Tampa backline is tied for the third most clean-sheets in the league (10).
Head coach, Neill Collins prefers a 3-4-2-1 formation with three strong central defenders.
Defenders, Abdoulaye Diakité, Tarek Morad and Caleb Richards have started at least 22 matches this season.
Left-side flanking midfielder, Leo Fernandes is the team’s playmaker. He leads the Rowdies in assists (6) and key passes (43).
In the center of the park, Dominic Oduro and Kwadwo Poku have recently been Collins’ go-to midfield duo.
What to watch for: Memphis 901 FC
The 901 FC still lack creativity in the final third but, two newly acquired players are trying to add offensive flair.
Attacking midfielders, Marcus Epps and Pierre Da Silva give Memphis more options on the attack.
Neither player has been able to find the back of the net in the few matches played. Fans need to be patient as one of the two is due for a breakout performance.
Epps attempted a team-high 45 shots through, 22 appearances in 2019. He is second on the team with 31 chances created.
Forward, Brandon Allen already scored against one of his former teams, NYRB II, in a Memphis jersey. He gets another chance against Tampa as he was acquired from the Florida team this season.
Allen has the second most goals for the 901 FC (4).
Midfielders, Cameron Lindley and Adam Najem continue to create goal-scoring chances (59 combined) but the finishing product from their teammates has resulted in few assists (4 combined).
The duo is in position to make an impact against a Tampa midfield that is not defensively sound.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 CT at Al Lang Stadium in Tampa Bay.