Like D.C. United, Loudoun United was off last week over the international break. Like D.C. United, Loudoun saw a starter called up for United States duty (in this case, loanee Donovan Pines played with the U-23s). Like D.C. United, Loudoun finds themselves in Florida this weekend, though that’s where things tend to diverge a little bit.
Key player: Griffin Yow
OK, this MAY be a little hyperbole as Yow will be less ‘key’ and more THE guy to watch. He went from subbing on (and impressing) against Nashville in Game 1 to starting and scoring the first goal in team history in Game 2 against Memphis. Though it could easily be stipulated that Yow was an open book in the former and facing an expansion side in the latter. He has since signed a homegrown deal so he counts as a loanee now (thus freeing a spot for another Academy player/homegrown candidate), but he’ll be facing more tough competition, as the right side of Tampa includes a Norwich City player on loan (Caleb Richards) and a Burkina Faso international (Mohamed Kone). Different pedigrees and game states, so it should be interesting to see how the kid does.
Location: Al Lang Stadium (Tampa Bay, Florida)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected Loudoun starting 11: As of this writing, Coach Richie Williams submits a squad of 23 names in preparation for an 18-man roster and his roster availability has never been fuller. Even though Antonio Bustamante is out (knee), former D.C. draftee/trialist Shinya Kadono has been with Loudoun for awhile, knows the tactics and presumably would fill it for Bustamante. Moreover, international players Jack-Jean Baptiste and Ariel Fantoni have arrived in Virginia and have been practicing since Loudoun’s last game two weeks ago and join Orlando Sinclair along with the other loanees (Pines, Yow and Akeem Ward), so Williams should have a full complement to go from.
That said? I’d imagine there’s not a lot of turnover: Calle Brown; Ward, Pines, Harri Hawkins, Peabo Doue; Noah Pilato, Sandor Bustamante; Connor Presley, Kadono, Yow; Kyle Murphy
Bench: Colin Miller, Andrew Lubahn, Collin Verfurth, Alexxon Saravia, Elian Nalerio, Fantoni, Sinclair
Key Tampa Bay player: Abdoulaye “Pape” Diakite
The Rowdies are tops in the East, undefeated in their first 3, winning 2. D.C. fans did see them early in the year and they’ve continued their performances into the early part of the USL Championship campaign, though they’ve developed some tactical flexibility since the sides met, lining up in a 3-5-2. The 26-year-old Senegal international is the center back and leads the league in clearances while making some fine distribution from the back. If he can be neutralized then the speed of Yow and Presley can possibly get some secondary support in for chances.
Referee: Gabriele Giusti
Available streaming: ESPN+
What are you drinking?: Trillium Brewing Company Rocky Road. Kind of crazy to be drinking a stout in 70 degree weather, but Trillium makes good ones if you can find them. This collaboration with Portland’s Great Notion Brewing to make well, the beer version of this ice cream is one I’m looking forward to.
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