ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rowdies had the New York Red Bulls II seeing double on Saturday. Leo Fernandes, Sebastian Guenzatti and Yann Ekra each scored twice in a 6-0 thumping before an announced 4,413 fans at Al Lang Stadium.
The Rowdies (16-6-1, 49 points) doubled their previous season-high output, having posted three goals on four separate occasions. They scored three goals in each half Saturday.
Just imagine if they hadn’t missed a penalty kick. Guenzatti was foiled by New York goalkeeper Luca Lewis from the spot on a fantastic save in the 10th minute, but the Rowdies were on the board two minutes later.
“They were relentless in the way that they went about the game,” Rowdies coach Neill Collins said. “When the boys play like that, it’s a joy to watch.”
Guenzatti and Ekra compounded their outputs with two assists each. And Ekra factored heavily on an additional goal, the first one, with a steal at midfield. Sebastian Dalgaard drove in a low cross that Fernandes hammered in for a 1-0 lead.
New York (4-14-4) actually threatened to tie at the half-hour mark but Rowdies defender Forrest Lasso came up with a big clearance. And in the 36th minute Ekra laid a ball off for Guenzatti, who scooted through the defense for a left-footed blast to make it 2-0. Fernandes’ second goal of the half, and fifth of the season, was set up by a chested ball from Guenzatti springing the midfielder in alone.
“We gave everything. We played a great game,” Guenzatti said. “After I missed the penalty, I just thought to myself, I have to make up for it. Leo scoring two minutes after, and me scoring after that, it left a good platform for us to keep scoring.”
Tampa Bay has won five straight and is unbeaten in its last eight, with no goals allowed in the past seven. Evan Louro preserved the blanking with a tough 90th-minute save against Mathias Jorgensen.
After Ekra set up Guenzatti’s second goal, making it 4-0 in the 49th minute, the connection was reversed in the 58th. Ekra later completed the triple double with an unassisted strike, off a failed clearance.
“Yann played an unbelievable game,” Guenzatti said. “We’re really happy and proud that he got the two goals because he’s been working very hard.”
Ekra’s tallies were his first of the season, while Guenzatti is now at 11 goals.
New York’s top scorer, Omar Sowe (six goals), recently earned a callup to the MLS side, rendering Red Bulls II’s chances for a comeback fairly hopeless. Tampa Bay held a 19-8 shot advantage.
After Saturday’s results the top two records in the USL Championship reside in the Atlantic Division. Pittsburgh rolled to a 5-0 win over Loudoun, and is on 47 points but notably has played two more matches than Tampa Bay. The Rowdies have nine matches left in the regular season, the next three on the road beginning Sept. 18 at Atlanta United 2.
If the Rowdies can keep Atlanta off the board for the first 49 minutes, they will set a league record for consecutive minutes without allowing a goal. The current streak sits at 711.
“The records are just a part of what we’re trying to achieve in the bigger picture. It’s nice, but it’s not what we think about. If we continue performing like that, we give ourselves a chance of breaking records,” Collins said.
The Rowdies get a full week before each of the road contests. Their next home game isn’t until Thursday, Oct. 7. Saturday’s triumph pushed the Rowdies’ record at Al Lang to 11-2 on the year.