Where: Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg FL

When: Saturday, November 6th 2021 @ 7:30PM

Watch: ESPN+


Neill Collins, 4th season

23-7-2, 71 points

14-2-1

W 2-1 @ Las Vegas

WLDWW

N/A

N/A

Head Coach

Record

Home/Away

Last Match

Last 5 Results

Injuries

Discipline

Last Match: First Meeting

Michael Nsien, 4th season

14-13-5, 47 points

5-7-4

W 2-0 vs Oklahoma City

DWDLW

N/A

N/A


Notes and Quotes:

As the top overall seed with the best regular season record in the league and as the top team to emerge from a tough Atlantic Division, the Rowdies are heavy favorites this weekend. Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins, though, has no fear of his team stumbling due to overconfidence against Tulsa.

“One thing these guys don’t need to assure our fans about is their attitude. I think they’ve shown their work week after week. I think our record against bottom teams is probably the best in the league. I think that shows they never take anyone lightly. They didn’t take their foot off the pedal when they wrapped the division up with five games to play because these guys are holding each accountable to a higher standard. If we weren’t to be at our best, it certainly wouldn’t be because of the players’ attitude. This week in training again the attitude’s been fantastic.”

–Tampa Bay Rowdies head coach Neill Collins

The Rowdies need to bring the same level that earned them a regular season crown when they face Tulsa, a team that fared well against the top two teams in its division. Tulsa went on the road and beat both Birmingham Legion FC and Louisville City FC.

“Based on what they’ve done this year, they’re a very good football team with a lot of good technical players that can take the ball. They like to build through the thirds and they like to pass it. They have some pace out wide and they’ve had two or three really good results on the road in a tough conference, going to Louisville and Birmingham winning, so we know that they’re more than capable of winning.”

–Tampa Bay Rowdies head coach Neill Collins

The Rowdies and FC Tulsa may be meeting for the first time in the USL Championship this Saturday, but the two markets have a shared history from the North American Soccer League days. Back in the 1970s and 80s Tulsa’s team was known ast the Tulsa Roughnecks. The Roughnecks met the Rowdies 14 times in the NASL, with the former holding an 8 to 6 edge in the series. Like the Rowdies, the Roughnecks returned in for a modern incarnation, but the club rebranded to FC Tulsa ahead of the 2020 season.

For Collins, the focus is solely on FC Tulsa this weekend. As it will be his side’s first time matching up with Tulsa, he and his coaching staff have a little extra homework to do this weekend. Still, he believes the Rowdies’ record against opponent outside of their division this year shows the system for preparation they have in place will put them in good standing on Saturday.

“I’ve got no experience with Tulsa and they’ve got no experience with us, but I believe having the cross-division games this year has been great to expose us to that. I think I might be right in saying we’re the only team to win all four of those cross-conference games. So I think very much the same type of recipe going into this one. Do our scouting on the opponent and then see how our style matches up, and I don’t think there’s one specific thing to do. It’s about implementing all the things that we’ve seen through the last 32 games.”

–Tampa Bay Rowdies head coach Neill Collins

USL regular season champions do not have the best record when it comes to hoisting the ultimate prize of lifting the trophy in the championship final. In fact, no regular season championship has ever come out on top in the postseason. Collins is not interested in comparing his Rowdies to those past regular season winners, though.

“This team’s never been regular season champs before, so you can’t put us in that category with others. It’s like comparing apples with oranges. You know, we’ve got a game to win on Saturday. Like last year, we take it a game at a time as it comes. We know how the playoffs work. It’s a different format, but the players all believe in what we do together. They believe in each other. They believe in how we play.”

–Tampa Bay Rowdies head coach Neill Collins

One player on the Rowdies who has the experience of winning a regular season championship and then crashing out in the playoffs is defender Forrest Lasso. Cincinnati was the class of the league in 2018 and Lasso won Defender of the Year that season. As a longtime veteran in American soccer, Lasso knows well how rare it is to get a real shot at a title.

“It’s tough winning a championship. In all my years of experience, it’s really easy to think like that. The hard thing is to focus on what you need to do. For us today, it’s just focusing on training and focusing on Tulsa. Of course I think about what could be at the end of the road, but I do know in order to get there we’ve gotta go step by step. It’s really easy to miss a step if you’re not focused on that one individual step.”

–Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Forrest Lasso

What has stood out for Lasso in Tampa Bay has been a shared mentality.

“It’s not just individual performances that are getting these results. I mean, of course you have guys that are doing phenomenal things in a particular 90 minutes, but when you look at the whole collective group and what we’ve achieved over the last two seasons, it’s a collective mentality.”

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