ST. PETERSBURG — Sebastian Guenzatti scored twice, including his team-leading fourth goal of the season, and the Rowdies scored three times in the second half of a 4-0 win over the expansion Hartford Athletic on Saturday at Al Lang Stadium.
Tampa Bay, 2-0-1 against the three expansion teams they’ve played, improved to 3-0-2 overall. The Rowdies, second in the Eastern Conference of the USL Championship league behind St. Louis, last scored that many goals in a game May 26, a 4-2 road win at Toronto.
“I’m happy for that to keep going,” coach Neill Collins said of the team’s unbeaten start. “Tonight, the attack was relentless.”
“We came out and everybody was sharp,” Guenzatti said. “We have a fighting team that doesn’t give up. Today, everything went our way.”
Guenzatti had the first and last goals of the game, but it was the insurance goal in the 58th minute that brought the crowd to its feet. Backup David Najem replaced Shawn Barry, who went off with a knee injury. Hartford goalkeeper Jacob Lissek made a point-blank save off Antoine Hoppenot, but Najem stuffed home the rebound from the right side for his first goal as a Rowdie.
“I’ve been waiting for that moment for a long time,” said Najem, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL in his left knee. “The fans had my back since I went down on the field (last year). This was a reward for them.”
Najem’s teammates celebrated by dogpiling on the 5-foot-9 right back.
“I was so happy,” Guenzatti said. “I probably celebrated his goal more than mine.”
Collins, who played for Tampa Bay early last season before taking over as coach, spoke fondly of Najem and his work ethic to return.
The Rowdies kept coming after Najem’s goal. Leo Fernandes, who finished with three assists, set up Andrew Tinari for his first goal, sending a cross that Guenzatti headed into the net for the final score.