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Five things to watch for at the Tampa Bay Rowdies-Cincinnati FC match tonight

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The Rowdies play a rare mid-week game tonight when they take on Cincinnati FC in the USL Match of the Week. Five things worth pondering:

1.  On the road again: The Rowdies are 3-0 at home, but they lost their only road match of the year last week when they fell 2-1 to Louisville. Cincinnati is 2-2, but it won its home opener last week in front of 23,144 fans. The Rowdies have never played before more than 13,000.

2. Who’s in goal? Last week, Akira Fitzgerald – who still hasn’t given up a goal this year – was injured, and regular Matt Pickens came in. With either, the Rowdies’ solid defense needs to be back. It posted clean sheets (shutouts) in its first three victories.

3. Headed for a Fall: In particular, Cincinnati poses a threat in Djiby Fall, this week’s USL Player of the Week. Fall scored all four of his team’s goals last week. He leads the league with six goals and 17 shots. Fall, from Senegal, is a two-time player of the year in Denmark and once in Norway.

4. Playing from behind: It’s always difficult, especially in soccer. A week ago, the Rowdies fell behind in the 22nd minute and could not get its rhythm going. Both teams scored in the final three minutes, but the Rowdies spent too much time playing catch-up. A quicker start against Cincinnati is a must.

5. More goals, please: The Rowdies have scored only one goal in three of their first four games: a 4-0 victory over Toronto being the lone exception. The Rowdies have won 1-0 twice and lost 2-1 last week. Georgi Hristov’s four goals have led the way, but the rest of lineup has struggled to finish. A nice night by Joe Cole (who has only one goal) would be welcome.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit [email protected]

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