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Rain pours it on, then so do Rowdies

After a one-hour delay, two quick first-half goals lead to a 4-1 win over Saint Louis.
The Rowdies' Sebastian Guenzatti, in a game against Charleston in June, scores twice in three minutes in the first half against Saint Louis on Saturday for a 2-0 lead and 12 goals on the season. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]
Published Jul. 21
Updated Jul. 21

ST. PETERSBURG — There was a bit of a wait for the action to get started, but once the Rowdies got going Saturday night, they did not mess around.

Two first-half scores in three minutes essentially sealed a victory, the Rowdies taking down Saint Louis 4-1 before an announced crowd of 4,520 at Al Lang Stadium.

With New York Red Bulls II giving up a goal late for a draw at Memphis, the Rowdies (12-1-7, 43 points) have a five-point advantage atop the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference.

Heavy rain and lightning forced kickoff back an hour later than the scheduled 7:30 start, but neither the field nor the Rowdies looked affected.

“This week (in training) we technically played (well) but also with an attitude, and they took it out there (Saturday),” coach Neill Collins said. “It was a whole club effort to get the game on. The rain delay is never easy. The grounds staff did an unbelievable job, and the players on the field gave all the staff something to be proud of."

Sebastian Guenzatti had both of the quick goals for an even dozen for the year, and Leo Fernandes made it 3-0 in the late stages as the Rowdies extended their unbeaten streak to six games. Guenzatti and Fernandes both contributed an assist, with Fernandes finding Caleb Richards in stoppage time for his first Tampa Bay goal.

Saint Louis didn’t record a shot on goal in the first hour.

Though Guenzatti started the scoring with his 11th goal of the season, it was Fernandes’ doing. In the 33rd minute, the midfielder took off into the left corner, deftly dipping around two defenders before chipping a ball that Guenzatti virtually had no choice but to head home.

“It was practically a goal by Leo,” said Guenzatti, who is two goals behind Phoenix’s Solomon Asante for the league lead. “I’m always looking at Leo’s eyes, and I read the play real well. We always have a great connection.”

Tampa Bay then did the opposite of sitting back, instantly pressing forward. Less than three minutes later, Malik Johnson created a goal-mouth attack that led to Lucky Mkosana collecting the ball in the middle of the penalty area and sharply cutting it back to Guenzatti, who had time to drill home a low shot for a 2-0 lead.

“When you’re two-nil up, it’s a dangerous score line. If they get the goal, they’ve got the momentum,” Richards said. “We knew they were going to come out fast. We just weathered the storm.”

Saint Louis’ first shot on target came in the 63rd minute and was an easy stop for goalkeeper John McCarthy. But he had no way of saving Kyle Greig’s header off a corner in the 87th minute.

Tampa Bay had one more goal to produce, with Richards sure-footing home a well-weighted setup from Fernandes.

“First of many. Had to do the job for the boys,” joked Richards, a defender who joined the Rowdies in February on loan from England’s Norwich City.

It made for a tidy night, especially with New York failing to get three points; the Rowdies visit the Red Bulls on Friday.

“A loss would be pretty dire because they’re on our tail,” Guenzatti said. “If we defend like we did (Saturday), we’ll be good.”

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Is Saturday's game the last of the season at Al Lang Stadium for the Rowdies? MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times
    Tampa Bay settles for a tie with Indy Eleven with one game remaining in the regular season.
  2. Ralph's Mob cheers on the Tampa Bay Rowdies as they take on the Charleston Battery on Saturday, June 15, 2019, at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    The loss puts more importance on next weekend’s game with Indy Eleven.
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  4. The playoff-bound Rowdies are giving fans plenty of reasons to cheer. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    With better postseason seeding a possibility, Tampa Bay blasts Bethlehem Steel FC 6-1.
  5. Rowdies fans wave flags ahead of a 2017 game at Al Lang Field. (Times   |   2017)
    Tampa Bay gets in with Charleston’s loss to Atlanta.
  6. The Rowdies take on Atlanta United 2 at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. MATT MAY  |  Tampa Bay Rowdies
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  8. Colombia forward Luis Muriel (19) reacts after scoring his second goal during the first half of a friendly against Brazil on 
Friday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Colombia faces off against Venezuela Tuesday at Raymond James Stadium. LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP
    Teams meet Tuesday with sights set on next year’s qualifiers for 2022 World Cup
  9. Forward Juan Tejada, left, in action earlier this season, scores early in each half to give the Rowdies a 2-0 lead over Charlotte on the way to a 3-1 win. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tampa Bay moves into second in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference.
  10. Sebastian Guenzatti, in a game against Charleston in June, has the Rowdies' goal and sets a modern team record for goals in the regular season. [ALLIE GOULDING   |   Times] ALLIE GOULDING  |  Tampa Bay Times
    They fall out of second place in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference while Nashville moves up.
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