ST. PETERSBURG — San Diego stunned the Rowdies with two late goals, including the winner in the 88th minute, sending Tampa Bay limping into a two-week break with a 3-2 defeat Saturday night before an announced crowd of 5,039 at Al Lang Stadium.
Sebastian Guenzatti ended his season-long scoring drought with a goal late in the first half to give the Rowdies (3-3-4) a 2-1 lead, and Tampa Bay twice looked poised to put the game away. The most painstaking miss came in the 58th minute when Guenzatti intercepted a pass and sent forward Kyle Greig in 1-on-1 with goalkeeper Koke Vegas and Greig’s chip attempt sailed high.
“Our season so far has been defined by missing chances,” said coach Neill Collins. “Just not shots, but misplaced passes, last cross. We should have put the game to bed.”
Dayonn Harris, who substituted for Greig shortly after the miss, had a steal in the 70th minute and saw Jake LaCava — who scored his team-leading fourth goal in the 21st minute to tie the score at 1 — streaking in unmarked. However, Harris put too much on the pass and the chance was gone.
Five minutes later, former Rowdie Jack Blake tied the score at 2. Kyle Vassell, a 29-year-old from England playing his first season in the United States and leading San Diego with five goals, shoulder charged Leo Fernandes off the ball and passed to Blake, who swept the ball inside the left post.
San Diego got the win when Tumi Moshabane sent Evan Conway into the box and Conway’s shot went right at Rowdies goalkeeper Raiko Arozarena, who could not make the stop.
“Individuals (are) just not recognizing moments in games where they have to do what they’re on the team for,” Collins said. “And that’s why we’re sitting here without any points when really (Saturday), I thought we deserved the three points.”
Collins did say that plenty of Rowdies are giving full efforts, such as Conner Antley, who shined in his first game of the year at right wing back.
Nick Moon, who scored four goals for Indy Eleven last season, got his first for the Loyal in the 19th minute. Left back Elijah Martin cleared the ball away to Moon, who chested it to himself 50 yards from goal. Moon charged in, then at the top of the box, he juked around Jordan Scarlett before ripping the ball into the upper right corner.
LaCava answered with a similar effort two minutes later. He outhustled a Loyal defender to the ball 35 yards in from the goal, creating a 2-on-1. LaCava charged into the box and shot over the head of Vegas with his left foot.
Guenzatti gave the Rowdies the lead in the 41st minute with an acrobatic shot after San Diego failed to clear a Fernandes corner kick. Guenzatti and the ball were headed away from goal, but he contorted his body and delivered a midair strike.
Fernandes was serving up corner kicks due to an injury to stalwart Lewis Hilton. Antley created numerous opportunities, including the one that led to the successful corner kick. Timmy Mehl earned his first start on defense alongside Scarlett and Aaron Guillen, all of whom held firm amidst a fairly steady flow of San Diego services into the penalty area.
It was the Rowdies’ fifth match in 15 days, including a U.S. Open Cup visit to Orlando City.
Antley acknowledged there may have been some “heavy legs” on the field during the final 20 minutes as San Diego got its two goals. San Diego had only three shots in the half and eight for the game, but due to the failure to connect on crosses, the Rowdies finished with just six.
“For some reason right now, we’re not getting the bounces,” Antley said. “We’re going to get it together. We’re going to figure it out. And I promise when we get back from this break … you’re going to see a team that’s hungry and that’s ready to win.”