ST. PETERSBURG — With the Rowdies down Leo Fernandes and his team-best 16 goals Saturday due to a red card suspension, Sebastian Guenzatti’s two goals helped Tampa Bay clinch an 8-0 win over Loudoun United FC and made Guenzatti the club’s all-time leading goal scorer.
Guenzatti had been tied with Georgi Hristov at 60 goals. Now he’s all alone at 62 after his performance at Al Lang Stadium.
“If you said to me when I took the job (coaching the Rowdies) that you’ll have a guy that breaks (Hristov’s) record, I’d be quite happy to have him,” said coach Neill Collins, who was Guenzatti’s teammate before taking over as coach in 2018.
Hristov set his record across 173 matches. Guenzatti broke it in 155.
Amid the individual achievement, the Rowdies’ eight goals set a club record for most in a game, surpassing the seven scored against the San Antonio Scorpions on Aug. 3, 2013. Their 69 goals this season so far set a club record, too.
With the win, its second consecutive victory after going a month without one, Tampa Bay (18-7-7) also secured a home match in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the USL Championship playoffs.
Guenzatti set the goal mark in the 19th minute. He drew a penalty kick when a Loudoun United defender tackled him. The 31-year-old held the ball with his hands and flipped it twice as Rowdies fans cheered around him. Then, he paced back three strides and buried the shot past goalkeeper Luis Zamudio.
“There’s always pressure on you,” Guenzatti said about the penalty kick. “All eyes are on you.”
Guenzatti, who set a team record with 22 goals last year, had scored only twice in 2022 entering the match. The lineup staple since arriving in 2017 had become an occasional starter, slotting into the starting lineup in 15 of the 27 matches he had played. This year had become a test for Guenzatti, Collins said.
“I always got to stay in the game,” Guenzatti said about his season-long struggles. “I can never lose my head or anything. I’m always waiting for my moment.”
Tampa Bay needed offense from different sources without Fernandes, who had accounted for 26.2% of its total offense — 16 of 61 goals — entering the night. In the Rowdies’ victory last weekend, Fernandes tackled a Monterey Bay FC player in the closing minutes and earned a red card. He’s eligible to return for Wednesday’s match against El Paso.
Guenzatti’s penalty kick provided the initial lift for the Rowdies. Then, a barrage of contributions followed. Robert Castellanos headed a corner kick into the net. Jake LaCava scored Tampa Bay’s third goal — his 12th of the season — just before halftime. Sebastian Dalgaard added a goal in the 64th minute. Lucky Mkosana and Dayonn Harris scored in the final 10-plus minutes, too.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“Leo’s like magic, and his creativity, you’re going to miss it,” Collins said. “But if the system’s working right and players are playing well, we’ll create chances, and the boys did that (Saturday).”
Among those goals was another from Guenzatti. He rose and twisted his right foot near the net, angling so it connected with a pass from Conner Antley and slicing the ball into the net in the 61st minute.
“The ball that (Antley) played me made the goal,” said Guenzatti, who had his first multigoal match since Oct. 20, 2021.
Like he did after his record-setting goal, Guenzatti took two strides, jumped and pumped his fist in celebration. But this time, he kept going — leaping over the advertising signs behind the net and past cameras perched by the field. Guenzatti kept running until he reached a section of fans behind the net.
He spread his arms wide and grinned. His new record now had a bit of a cushion.