ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rowdies edged out the Charleston Battery with a 2-0 victory on Friday night at Al Lang Stadium to extend their undefeated start to the 2020 Championship season to five games and cement their place at the top of Group H.
The game took time to find a rhythm, and the first serious effort on goal didn’t arrive until the 29th minute when a sharp pass through the Battery’s defensive lines by Forrest Lasso found Lewis Hilton in a pocket of space, and the midfielder fired a shot from 25 yards that was comfortably saved by Charleston goalkeeper Phil Breno.
Charleston built a spell of pressure after the first-half hydration break that Tampa Bay held off well, but then the hosts took the lead in the 40th minute as a long pass forward by Jordan Doherty found Sebastian Guenzatti just outside the right side of the penalty area. The Rowdies’ captain got past his defender, and then clipped a shot with the outside of his right foot that took a deflection and found the near corner of the net.
Guenzatti had a big chance to double the Rowdies’ lead 10 minutes into the second half but Breno got off his line well to narrow his shooting angle and made the save. A minute later the Battery got a golden opportunity to level as the ball caromed to Stavros Zarokostas, but the Greek midfielder was unable to put his header on goal.
Zarokostas continued to pop up in dangerous positions for the Battery, and on the hour-mark slid a finish just wide of the right post after being played into the left channel by Zeiko Lewis. Four minutes later the same duo linked up on a similar play, but this time Zarokostas’ finish was denied by Rowdies goalkeeper Evan Louro.
Charleston’s Romario Piggott went close again with 10 minutes to go as a deep cross from the left by Dante Marini was headed back across goal by Jay Bolt to Piggott. The Panamanian took one touch to control and then fired a bicycle kick that went just wide of the left post.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men moments later as Jarad van Schaik received his second yellow card of the game, and that opened the game up for the Rowdies on the counterattack. Brought on as a second-half substitute, Malik Johnson wove past a pair of defenders in the right side of the penalty area and fired a low cross to the back post, but Max Lachowecki couldn’t apply the finishing touch with five minutes to go.
Johnson took matters into his own hands in the 88th minute, though, and sealed all three points for the hosts. Picking up possession just inside the Battery half, the Canadian winger drove forward into the right side of the penalty area, made a sharp move to create space and fired a low shot into the bottom-left corner of the net.
Johnson almost set up a third for the Rowdies in stoppage time as his low cross through the penalty area from the right was skied by Kyle Murphy, while the Battery had a goal ruled out for offside as Bolt found the net on an angled cross from the left by Robbie Crawford. Tampa Bay saw out its shutout from there, though, and took a five-point lead on the Battery at the top of the group standings.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Sebastian Guenzatti, Tampa Bay Rowdies – Guenzatti marked the third anniversary of his signing with the Rowdies with his 28th regular-season goal for the club to lead Tampa Bay to victory.