Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rowdies

Home playoff berth still in limbo for Rowdies

Tampa Bay settles for a tie with Indy Eleven with one game remaining in the regular season.
Is Saturday's game the last of the season at Al Lang Stadium for the Rowdies? [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times]
Published Oct. 13

St. PETERSBURG — Playoff seeding will go down to the wire as the Rowdies missed a chance to move up in the United Soccer League Championship Eastern Conference standings against Indy Eleven on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium. The teams settled for a 1-1 draw in front of 7,815 fans, the largest crowd of the season.

Tampa Bay entered the match in fifth place with 57 points, two spots and two points behind Indy. The Rowdies, who have clinched a playoff berth, close out the regular season next Saturday at Hartford.

A home game in the postseason is something coach Neill Collins said the players crave.

“We want to bring more people back and have the stands filled,” he said. “It was great to have that support.”

Sebastian Guenzatti, who scored the Rowdies’ lone goal to extend a modern-era team record to 18, said the players noted the size of the crowd, which surpassed the 7,304 who turned out for the season opener.

“Hopefully we’ll get a top spot to get back here,” he said, adding that a tie “is frustrating and disappointing for the fans. Fans are the main part of this. Without fans there would be no fun.”

Leading 1-0, Tampa Bay allowed the tying goal in the 72nd minute when Indy’s Dane Kelly finished off Tyler Pasher’s cross from the left by kicking the ball into a wide-open net from the right side for his team-leading eighth goal.

In the waning seconds of the first half and after a handful of close-range scoring bids that missed the net or were blocked, the Rowdies took a 1-0 lead on Guenzatti’s penalty kick. That gave the team captain goals in five of his past seven starts.

Guenzatti’s PK came after a hand ball in the penalty box was called on defender Paddy Barrett, who blocked Andrew Tinari’s low shot from the left side.

“The goalie was trying to hold the ball to waste time and make me nervous,” said Guenzatti, who kicked the ball into the bottom right corner when Indy goalkeeper Jordan Farr lunged to his right and left a wide-open net. “You’ve just got to stay calm in those moments.”

Before the PK, Tampa Bay’s best scoring chance early came with Leo Fernandes hitting the far goalpost from a tough angle on the left side. The midfielder stole the ball near the sideline and dribbled in deep before sending a high cross that bounced out.

Fernandes was injured on that play and did not return as he was replaced by Afrim Taku. Collins said Fernandes injured his right hamstring and his status for the regular-season finale will likely be determined later in the week.

Tampa Bay controlled the tempo from the outset, finishing with a 24-5 shot advantage. For his part, Collins could not fault his players for their collective effort, though he was not too pleased with the outcome.

“We’re coming to the last days of the season. It’s all about results,” he said. “We just fell short.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Rowdies' Afrim Taku (26) walks away as Louisville City celebrates one of its two first-half goals Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. EMDASHPHOTO.COM      |  EM Dash Photography, LLC
    The Rowdies fall to two-time defending champion Louisville City 2-1 in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
  2. Tampa Bay forward Sebastian Guenzatti says the Rowdies aren't too worried about Louisville City FC's “turf monster,” which tends to trip up players. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tampa Bay, which hasn’t won in the past four matches, faces Louisville City FC in the USL Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
  3. Juan Tejada (right) and the Rowdies could not contain the Hartford Athletic in a 2-1 loss Saturday night. Hartford Athletic
    Tampa Bay’s loss means it will start the postseason with a tall order
  4. Tampa Bay Rowdies coach Neill Collins celebrates with players in a match against Memphis 901 FC at Al Lang Stadium on Aug. 24. MATT MAY  |  Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies
    Tampa Bay takes on Hartford Athletic on the road at in its final regular-season game Saturday.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Lucky Mkosana appears in a match against the Ottawa Fury FC at Al Lang Stadium on June 29, 2019. The Rowdies won the match 2-1. MATT MAY  |  Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies
    The Saturday night matchup on the road with be a tough test for Tampa Bay, which has clinched a playoff spot but hosting is still up for grabs.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. The Rowdies take on Atlanta United 2 at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. MATT MAY  |  Tampa Bay Rowdies
    Tampa Bay moves closer to a playoff berth in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement