All-time regular season series: SAS leads 7-0-6
2015 head-to-head series: Tied 1-0-1
Saturday's game will be the final meeting between these two sides for the 2015 season. Both match-ups so far have been blow outs; A 3-1 away victory for the Rowdies on opening night, and a 3-0 home win for the Scorpions early in the Fall season. The Scorpions have improved their defense in the past few games, say for the 3 goals given up against Carolina midweek last. Through the first 6 games of the Fall season, the Scorpions gave up 16 goals whereas in the last 6 games they have only given up 5. Unfortunately, the decrease in goals scored against San Antonio was also accompanied by a decrease in goals scored for the Scorpions; 13 goals for in the first 6 games versus only 7 in the last 6. If San Antonio can marry their current defensive improvement with the high scoring attack from earlier in the Fall, the Alamo City boys will give themselves a chance to move up the table if they can string together some wins.
Q & A with Unused Substitutes Podcast co-host, Matt
ASC: The Rowdies had one of the best turnarounds from 2014 to 2015, only missing out on the Spring title by 1 point and have been sitting in 4th place in the combined standings. It was a shock to see Rongen and Quraishi let go while the team is in a playoff position. Can you explain why Bill Edwards released him?
Matt: I don't know if we'll ever get the whole story about the firings of Rongen and Quraishi - the reasons given publicly revolved around our start to the Fall season, which was poor, and Edwards desire to win now instead of building for the future. There have been rumors of player discontent, but nothing really solid until Georgi Hristov's post-game comments after the win over New York, so there may be something to that.
ASC: What did Georgi Hristov say in his post-game comments?
Matt: I'm paraphrasing here, but something to the effect of: There's been some changes and you can see by the result tonight that the owner made the right decision.
ASC: Since the head coaching change, the Rowdies are 1-1-2 with a win against the Cosmos; Is this an improvement over how the team was doing with Rongen at the helm?
Matt: After coming so close to the Spring title, we started out Fall with a win over Atlanta, but then lost 3 straight. We picked up a win and a draw after that, before losing two more games prior to the staff changes. I write the first loss under new coach Stuart Campbell off because the coaching change was made the Thursday before a Saturday game, but I thought we played well in the second half vs Ottawa to get a point on the road, on turf, and after conceding 2 early goals, and the win over New York may have been the most complete match I've seen us play since we came back into existence. Last weekend's result was disappointing, but kind of par for the course as road games and turf games have been our jinxes this year. There's been some modification to the shape and the starting lineup, and some of the guys seem to be responding well to it, but it's still very much a work in progress.
ASC: Besides Raúl, the Rowdies had the biggest signing for the league when they inked former USMNT player, Freddy Adu, who had a great relationship with Rongen. Do you see him sticking around next year, now that the coach that brought him to Tampa is gone?
Matt: It's really hard to say at this point what will happen. Freddy's only signed through the end of the Fall season and has only played a few minutes before suffering an injury. He's finally back in full training and traveled last week but was an...unused substitute (subliminal plug there!) He's still been a presence at the stadium and seems to be in good spirits. Personally, I'd like to see him stick around because I think he can contribute to this team, we're not looking to him to be the face of the club or trade on his name to sell extra tickets, he's here because the coaches believe he can be an important part of this team.
ASC: What is the most important thing that needs to happen in order for Tampa to stay in the playoff race, besides just winning?
Matt: In no particular order, we've got to keep guys healthy, the defense needs to find it's Spring form, our midfielders need to be a more imposing presence in their area, and our forwards have to finish the chances they get. As a team, we've got to get this road/turf jinx out of our heads and get results.
ASC: The Rowdies Den looks like a great hangout place before/after games & for watch parties; Is it a popular place among Rowdies fans?
Matt: Like any new venture, it's had some bumps in the road but is a packed place on game days. We broadcast our show from the Den live on Monday nights, and it's a fantastic place to see a lot of original Rowdies memorabilia as well. There's a lot of American soccer history on those walls!
ASC: Do you think (or want) Stuart Campbell will be the head coach in 2016?
Matt: I think Campbell's tenure as coach may depend on making the playoffs this season. I also think he should at least get a whole season to prove himself, regardless. He's the last link to our 2012 championship team, he's a player and fan-favorite. To rebound and win with him would be fantastic but Edwards has put everyone on notice that he expects results, and that he's willing to invest to get them, and that he's willing to shake things up if that's what it takes too.
ASC: What is your prediction for the 4 playoff teams come November?
Matt: New York, Ottawa, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay
ASC: Prediction for this weekend's game against San Antonio?
Matt: They're going to want to show they're the team that won 3-1 in the season opener, not the one that lost 3-0 (or 7-0 last year!), so I'll say a 2-1 win for the Rowdies.
The Rowdies have been reeling in this Fall season and this is a great opportunity for the Scorpions to strike while the iron is hot. While the Red & Black haven't won on the road since late in the Spring, this game could be the one to break the 5 game road winless streak. Omar Cummings scored in both meetings this year, including a brace in the Scorpions' 3-0 Fall home victory. Cummings hasn't scored in over a month; Will he end his drought against the Rowdies? I'll predict that the Scorpions come away with a 3-2 victory in a shootout by the bay.
A special thanks to Matt from the Unused Subs Podcast for answering my questions! You can follow him and the Unused Subs Pod on Twitter @Unsub_Matt & @UnusedSubsPod. Their website is www.theunsubs.com (they're also on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Instagram, and Periscope)
The game is this Saturday, September 19th at 6:30pm CST at Al Lang Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. #TBRvSAS
Soccer On -ASC
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