ST. PETERSBURG — In his 100th appearance with the Rowdies, captain Sebastian Guenzatti hammered home a penalty kick in the 68th minute and Tampa Bay defeated Charleston 1-0 before an announced 4,429 at Al Lang Stadium on Friday night.
The league-leading Rowdies controlled play throughout against a Charleston side that seemed content to come away with a scoreless draw. But sub Jordan Adebayo-Smith helped spoil those plans 10 minutes after he entered, charging into the penalty box and drawing a foul from Leland Archer.
Guenzatti’s eighth goal of the year — and fourth from the penalty spot — was a no-doubter inside the right post.
“I’m proud of the team that’s behind me,” Guenzatti said. “The way that everybody worked, especially the subs, they came in and changed the game. Gave me a penalty and that allowed me to score. Obviously having my family here, fans, being at home in my 100th game, dream come true.”
He estimated 10 family members were in attendance. Charleston, which had only produced one shot the entire game to that point, attempted to ramp up its attack but did not force Rowdies goalkeeper Evan Louro into a save all night.
Tampa Bay (8-2) has gone 6-1 at home in the early portion of the USL Championship season. Friday marked the first meeting with the squad that gave the Rowdies serious trouble last year, to the tune of three defeats. But Charleston (3-3-2, 11 points) was missing a couple of key attackers and didn’t pose much of a threat.
The Rowdies hold a seven-point lead atop second-place Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division, although the Riverhounds are in action against third-place Charlotte (15 points) on Saturday.
Already without the dangerous Nicque Daley, who is playing for national side Bermuda in CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifying, Charleston lost forward Stavros Zarokostas to injury in the 28th minute.
“They’re like us as well, I should say they’re not at full strength. I think both of us were bare bones tonight,” Rowdies coach Neill Collins said.
The Rowdies could not penetrate the Battery in spite of utter dominance in a first half that saw Tampa Bay hold the ball more than 67 percent of the time, and outshoot Charleston 8-0.
Charleston goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky made a remarkable save on a header from Zach Steinberger, on Dayonn Harris’ second spot-on service in a frantic stoppage-time effort.
“My biggest frustration in the first half is the boys played some excellent football, really implemented our game plan but we didn’t quite capitalize so you’re always fearful because Charleston are a resilient side. I thought we carried on in the second half, pretty much in the same vein. It was fitting that it was (Guenzatti) who took advantage,” Collins said.
Though Harris created some chances, he was the first starter off the field, with Adebayo-Smith stepping into his spot and eventually creating the game’s only score. Collins brought on three more substitutes — the maximum he had available as injuries again limited the options.
“I tell you what, the 14 guys that we have, they’re giving everything,” Collins said.
Tampa Bay heads on the road for a match with Miami on Wednesday.