ST. PETERSBURG — It took a little longer than planned, but the Rowdies gave their season-high crowd of 4,332 a winning display, 2-1 over Loudoun United FC on Friday night.
Recent acquisition Foster Langsdorf swept home a rebound in the 85th minute, as Leo Fernandes’ corner kick made its way through two other Rowdies before finding the foot of an alert Langsdorf.
“He came on tonight and lifted us in terms of his energy,” Rowdies coach Neill Collins said. “It was a very important moment. He looked as if he enjoyed it — we certainly enjoyed it.”
It was Tampa Bay’s first come-from-behind win of the season; the Rowdies (6-1) never trailed in their first five games and dropped a 1-0 decision at Charlotte last weekend.
Loudon (1-5) stunned the large crowd with a well-earned first goal less than four minutes in. Jeremy Garay’s through ball sent Darluis Paz down the right wing, and his outstanding curling pass scuttled past three Tampa Bay players to Robert Dambrot for a 1-0 lead.
The Rowdies snapped to attention but Collins still got up a group of would-be subs to send a message about 20 minutes in. Tampa Bay took firm control and was rewarded in the 34th minute when captain Sebastian Guenzatti scored his fifth goal of the season. It was Fernandes who started the play, putting a couple of moves to free himself in the box and although his shot was saved, Conner Antley corralled the rebound and cut back a ball to set up Guenzatti.
“When you’ve been ahead in the first five games, and you go behind last week and (Friday), it gives the game a totally different context,” Collins said. “We got the goal before halftime, and I thought we’d come on better in the second half earlier. It took us until really late to really start creating the chances we want. But it’s a good character moment, so it gives us belief that we can do that (again) in the future.”
Tampa Bay nearly scored right before the half on another Antley pass but Jordan Adebayo-Smith, starting in place of the injured Steevan Dos Santos (three goals), could not make firm contact in the face of a wide-open net.
That missed opportunity looked like it might prove costly as Loudoun produced plenty of possession and a trio of quality chances. The Rowdies pressed up, discernibly, to start the second half, leaving some counterattack to be had. But defenders Aaron Guillen and Jordan Scarlett snuffed out a couple of dangerous-looking runs, and goalkeeper Evan Louro was stout on the shots that came his way.
Guenzatti nearly made it 2-1 in the 63rd minute, yet again on a Fernandes cross, but his strong header was swatted away by a diving Keegan Meyer. Shortly after that Collins made three substitutions, but it was the fourth (Langsdorf) who salvaged the three points. Fernandes’ corner from the left side was headed down by Guenzatti to Forrest Lasso, who didn’t get a clean shot, but the ball slotted over to Langsdorf for the winner.
When Dos Santos was injured late in Tampa Bay’s fourth match the Rowdies picked up Langsdorf, who was on the Al Lang Stadium pitch for the first time.
“It’s good to get to know the boys on the road, but not so good from a training standpoint. Foster’s had to be patient. That was a scrappy striker’s goal, and that’s what good strikers do. Really pleased to see Foster get off the mark,” Collins said.
Much of the crowd stayed after the win for a fireworks show to celebrate the return of full capacity.
“Hopefully in the future we can give them even more to shout about,” Collins said. “I have to give credit to Loudoun, I don’t know if they quite deserved the result tonight but we’re going to take it. We just hope between now and the end of the season we can give this group of fans some special nights.”
They’ll have another shot at pleasing the Al Lang faithful when Pittsburgh visits June 19.