KENNESAW, GA. — Appropriate to the makeup of the rosters, the Rowdies manhandled Atlanta United 2 in a 3-0 victory Wednesday night.
Against a squad with players mostly in their teens, veteran-based Tampa Bay controlled play and seemingly could have conceivably doubled its goal count.
The Rowdies are unbeaten through three matches (2-0-1) while Atlanta, outshot 26-6 Wednesday and 73-15 this season, fell to 0-3 in the USL Championship.
“Our attitude and intensity were fantastic,” said Rowdies coach Neill Collins. “Tonight we got the (first) goal and did a good job forging ahead and continuing to play some good football.”
After a few minutes of sloppy play, the Rowdies began orchestrating their dominance, to the tune of a 14-1 shot advantage in the first half.
Sixteen-year-old Atlanta defender Noah Cobb, who just signed his first pro contract on Wednesday, made a couple of stellar blocks. Rowdies captain Sebastian Guenzatti also sailed a free header as Tampa Bay was frustrated in the first 15 minutes.
But after Jordan Scarlett’s goal on a header was waved off for being offside, the Rowdies took the lead less than a minute later. Leo Fernandes led Steevan Dos Santos with a pass that Dos Santos chipped over Dylan Castanheira in the 21st minute to make it 1-0.
Sebastian Dalgaard, off a failed clearance in the 31st minute, took a full windup with the outside of his right foot, perfectly lacing the ball in the upper-right corner for a 2-0 lead.
Tampa Bay seemed bent on executing a spectacular goal in the second half, with Dos Santos providing a backheel pass to Jake La Cava before the shot went wide. Dos Santos then tried his own backheel shot that just missed.
In the 62nd minute, La Cava combined with Guenzatti for the highlight of a third goal. La Cava sent Guenzatti into the box, and he sized up a perfect backheel pass that La Cava flicked inside the left post.
Collins credited first-year assistant Jon Stead, an Englishman who scored 143 goals in a just-completed career of nearly two decades, with some of the Rowdies’ newfound creative leanings.
“Fantastic striker in his own right and is now starting to pass on little things in training,” Collins said. “Just getting them comfortable to link up, play together, and when players start connecting and get to know each other, these things come out.”
Rowdies first-year goalkeeper CJ Cochran, who played at nearby Georgia State University, did not have to make a save as his team held a 10-0 advantage in shots on goal. Jackson Conway had Atlanta’s best chance, missing a volley by a few feet shortly before Tampa Bay’s third goal.
Up next for the Rowdies is a match against Hartford Athletic at 7:30 Saturday at Al Lang Stadium. Hartford has only played one match, a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh.