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5 things to watch for as the Tampa Bay Rowdies put their unbeaten streak on the line

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Five things to look forward to in the Saturday night game between the Rowdies and Ottawa FC.

1. Unbeaten, untied. The Rowdies seek to complete a successful homestand with a win over the Ottawa Furies. Tampa Bay had won 1-0 and 4-0 in two weeks and has looked solid on both ends of the pitch. For a team to get nine points out of its first home stand would be impressive.

2. Old friends: Ottawa is one of the few teams in the USL that is familiar to Tampa Bay, also coming from the NASL. Last year, the Fury had a loss and a tie at Al Lang Field, so the Rowdies will attempt to continue their hold over Ottawa, which is 0-1 on the season after losing last week with an own-goal.

3. Clean sheets: The Rowdies’ defense has been superb in two games so far, and pitched a shutout (a clean sheet) in both. Tampa Bay goaltender Akira Fitzgerald has been solid, but he really hasn’t had a lot of work because of the defense in front of him. Fitzgerald has only two saves in two games.

4. Passing crispness: Through two games, the Rowdies have completed 967 passes. That’s second in the USL to the Portland Timbers 2, who have 1,132, but the Timbers have played one more game. If the Rowdies can continue to distribute the ball, they should be able to get past the Fury.

5. Third time’s a charm: Rowdies’ forward Georgi Hristov has scored in each of the first two games for the Rowdies. Despite missing several chances in their opener, the Rowdies are second in the USL with five goals. Also look for Michael Nanchoff, who had two assists and earned Man of the Match honors.

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 garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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