Preseason Preview: SKC vs Tampa Bay

Sporting Kansas City will complete the team's third and final match of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic group phase on Saturday as they take on North American Soccer League's Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Rowdies are 0-2-0 thus far in the tournament compared to Sporting Kansas City’s 1-1-0 record, yet the standings are prime for a variety of outcomes pending results on Saturday.

Sporting Kansas City and Tampa Bay have the last match of the night so both teams will know leading into the match what they need to accomplish to secure the highest possible rank at the conclusion of group play, respectively.

The Rowdies joined the NASL in 1975 and played 10 seasons before the League folded. But in 2011, the NASL was back again and is currently sanctioned as the Division II Professional League by United States Soccer Federation, just under Major League Soccer in the pyramid.

In 2012, Tampa Bay secured second place in the NASL at the conclusion of the regular season and went on to win the NASL Championship Series.

The Rowdies dropped their first match in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic to D.C. United. The match was scoreless for the first 55 minutes of play, but United managed to put away four goals in the final 35 minutes of play.

Tampa Bay faced the Montreal Impact three days later falling 4-1. Contrary to the match against D.C., the Rowdies conceded three goals prior to the halftime intermission. Tampa Bay’s lone goal came on a penalty kick in the 18th minute taken by defender Takuya Yamada.

There will be a few familiar faces for Sporting Kansas City players as the Rowdies take the field tomorrow. Most notably, Tampa Bay striker and Missouri native Mike Ambersley will reunite with Jacob Peterson. Ambersley attended Indiana University from 2001-2005 and was teammates with Peterson in 2003 and 2004 when the Hoosiers won back-to-back National Titles. In 2004, Jacob Peterson scored Indiana’s lone goal in the championship to send the match into penalty kicks and Ambersley scored the game-winning PK to lead IU to their second consecutive title. Ambersley was the assist leader in the NASL in 2012, earning eight assists and he added six goals, tied for 10th amongst the League, but he has not clocked any minutes so far at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.

In 2005, Graham Zusi and the University of Maryland beat Southern Methodist University in the College Cup semifinals. Tampa Bay defender Jay Needham anchored SMU’s defense that season and was a major contributor in sending the team to the College Cup. Needham started both matches during preseason tournament for Tampa Bay, recording 135 minutes of playing time.

In regards to MLS connections, Tampa Bay midfielder Keith Savage was teammates with Sporting Kansas City midfielder Paulo Nagamura at Chivas USA for the beginning part of the 2008 season. Savage notched five assists during the Rowdies 2012 NASL season, ranking sixth in the League. Savage has started both matches during the preseason tournament in Orlando and tallied 150 minutes so far in Tampa Bay’s first two matches of the tournament.

Tune in to to watch Sporting Kansas City take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.