The Rowdies’ run of spotless defending came to an end Saturday, but their winning streak did not.
Tampa Bay made it seven straight victories, and 10 straight unbeaten outcomes, prevailing 2-1 at Hartford while being led once again by two goals from Sebastian Guenzatti.
Hartford scored near the end of a four-minute stoppage time.
Guenzatti had a two-goal game for a third straight week and has 16 goals on the season.
With Pittsburgh unable to hold a 2-0 lead at home, coming away instead with 3-3 draw to Charleston, the Rowdies (18-6-1, 55 points) lead the Atlantic Division by seven points.
“What a result. Just can’t speak highly enough of these boys,” Rowdies coach Neill Collins said. “Teams obviously want to try and score against us, want to try and beat us, and for the boys to raise the level of their performance in a really tough environment is excellent.”
Collins was especially impressed with how his starting unit performed considering when the Rowdies arrived in Hartford. Their Friday flight was delayed and didn’t leave Tampa Bay until 1:30 Saturday morning.
“We didn’t get to bed until 5 a.m. I think it’s just a measure of the players that they were able to focus on the 90 minutes, and their fitness levels and concentration levels were fantastic,” Collins said. “Every time you ask them for a bit more, they give it. The fans should be proud of them.”
The starting unit stayed on the field for the first 85 minutes before Collins made a substitution.
Guenzatti, just as he did a week before at Atlanta, scored twice in the first half, this time in the 12th minute and on the last kick of the half.
And like his two-goal performance two weeks ago at home, Guenzatti had a penalty kick stopped. Goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell corralled a straight-down-the-middle effort with his trailing leg after diving to his right.
Hartford (9-12-3) scored when Derek Dodson drew out Rowdies goalie Evan Louro, calmly sending a ball over to captain Danny Barrera for the goal.
The Athletic sent the ball dangerously into the box in the closing seconds, but Louro punched it toward midfield and Laurence Wyke calmly dribbled out the clock. Hartford outshot the Rowdies 12-9.
Collins was asked if the late goal, which ended the Rowdies’ unscored-upon streak at 891 minutes, was in a way a relief.
“Not in any way, shape or form is that a relief,” he said. “Those guys in there are disappointed about losing that goal because they know that they could have prevented it. It’s the standard we’ve set.
“Hartford were unfortunate not to get a goal earlier, but when you get that close (to a shutout), you’d obviously like a clean sheet. So, let’s go on to the next streak.”