ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies welcomed their fans back to Al Lang Stadium for the first time in 2020 with a 2-1 victory against Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact on the opening day of the Suncoast Invitational.
Sebastian Guenzatti scored once in each half and the Rowdies came up just a few seconds short of a clean sheet as Impact midfielder Romell Quioto converted a penalty with the final kick of the match.
Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins fielded a strong lineup, anchored by a new-look backline of Louis Lomas, Forrest Lasso and Aaron Guillen ahead of goalkeeper Evan Louro.
That defensive unit played the full 90 minutes together and nearly completed the clean sheet. On Wednesday night in Orlando, that same defensive unit had kept a clean sheet for 60 minutes until Lasso departed the match.
Guenzatti put the Rowdies ahead in the 14th minute after VAR confirmed a Montreal handball after a series of chances for Tampa Bay in the Impact penalty area, giving the hosts an early penalty kick. Guenzatti’s initial attempt to the right corner was saved by Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush, but the Rowdies’ leading scorer a season ago reacted quickly to put in the rebound.
Montreal had a couple of scoring chances of its own, including a scary moment in the 39th minute when Lasso was forced to make a goal line clearance to keep the Impact’s Ballou Tabla from leveling the score.
Mathieu Choiniere also nearly scored for Montreal in the 47th minute when his shot took a deflection and rocked the crossbar before bouncing to safety.
Guenzatti doubled Tampa Bay's lead in the 66th minute, however, when Lucky Mkosana stole possession in the Impact’s half, drove forward in the left channel and then found Guenzatti in space on the right side for a low finish to the bottom-left corner.
Ten minutes later, the Rowdies could've made the score 3-0 when Leo Fernandes served a ball from the left across the face of goal, but Mkosana couldn’t quite make clean contact at the back post on what would've been a tap-in at the back post. The Impact then pulled a goal back through Quioto from the penalty spot in stoppage time, but it wasn’t enough to stop a good first public outing for Tampa Bay in front of its home fans.