One of the biggest derbies in US soccer history returns Saturday night when the Tampa Bay Rowdies visit Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium for a match against their arch-enemy.
Since the 1970’s, the names and ownership of both Florida clubs have changed on many occasions. But the competitive nature between Tampa and South Florida remains – more than 30 years later.
Saturday’s USSF Div 2 game between Miami FC and FC Tampa Bay Rowdies will be the first game between both clubs.
The Rowdies, managed by former MLS player Paul Dalglish, will be hoping for a strong performance on the field from a team that he has carefully molded over the last several months.
Miami FC, meanwhile, will be hoping for their first home win of the season after draws against Rochester and Vancouver.
But in a game like this, the storylines often carry themselves over to what happens off the pitch. Such as whether the Rowdies will bring 200-300 supporters for the 3-4 hour drive across state. And whether the South Florida soccer community will come to Lockhart for the first rematch of many between their team (i.e. the “Strikers”) and the Rowdies.
From personal experience, I have mixed emotions about Tampa fans. In the years of the ASL and APSL leagues from the late 80s and early 90s, I remember the jovial Rowdies fans standing in Lockhart to cheer their team on.
But I also remember a bus trip by Miami Fusion supporters for an away game against Tampa Bay Mutiny, where the Fusion fans (myself included) were chased and attacked by Tampa fans while exiting the stadium.
Let’s hope that the rivalry between both teams, on and off the pitch, will be a healthy competitive spirit.
Kickoff time at Lockhart Stadium is 7:30pm. But be sure to get there between 5-5:30pm for a tailgate party which will include free food and drinks.