MIAMI – The Tampa Bay Rowdies moved into pole position to claim the best record in the Eastern Conference as a first-half goal by Sebastian Guenzatti earned a 1-0 victory against Miami FC on Saturday night at Riccardo Silva Stadium. After Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s defeat earlier on Saturday night, the Rowdies can now top the overall Eastern Conference standings with a win against the Charleston Battery next Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium.
After an even opening the Rowdies created the first few looks at goal, starting in the 10th minute when a slipped through-ball by Leo Fernandes played in Kyle Murphy for a shot that went just of the left post. Murphy went closer again two minutes later with a placed shot from 25 yards toward the left corner that Miami goalkeeper Mark Pais kept out with a diving save, while in the 20th minute Sebastian Guenzatti was also denied by Pais as he got off his line quickly to deny the Rowdies’ captain.
Tomas Granitto had the first clear chance for Miami in the 26th minute as Vincent Bezecourt delivered a cross through the six-yard area that came to Mo Thiaw, who pulled a pass back to the onrushing Granitto that he fired wide of the left post from 10 yards. Bezecourt also tested former teammate and Rowdies goalkeeper Evan Louro a few minutes later, but Louro comfortably made the save.
Eight minutes before halftime, though, the Rowdies took the lead as a corner kick from the left was delivered by Fernandes to the back post. Jordan Scarlett headed back across goal toward Guenzatti, and his precise glancing header found the left corner of the net.
Bezecourt almost pulled a goal back three minutes later as after a corner kick for the hosts his stabbed effort from the right side of the penalty area was tipped over the crossbar by Louro, while in first-half stoppage time Murphy went close to a second for the visitors as Pais had to turn his shot from the right side of the penalty area wide of the near post.
Tampa Bay got out of the blocks quickly in the second half, and this time it was Fernandes that almost notched their second as his blast from just inside the top-left edge of the penalty area was blocked away by Granitto. Miami then went in search of an equalizer, and just past the hour-mark Bezecourt again fired on goal only to be denied by Louro. Othello Bah then tried his luck with a dipping shot from the top-left edge of the penalty area that went just over the crossbar, while Sebastian Velasquez was kept out by Louro on a curling shot to the right corner of the net with 18 minutes to go.
The Rowdies had a big chance to put the game away with six minutes to go as a cross from the right by Lewis Hilton was headed down powerfully by Guenzatti and parried by Pais, but Lucky Mkosana sent the rebound chance wide from the top of the six-yard area. Tampa Bay’s defense held firm late on, though, to see out the victory and earn Louro his seventh shutout of the season.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Sebastian Guenzatti, Tampa Bay Rowdies – Guenzatti notched the only goal of the game, had four shots overall and three on target, and completed 31 of 42 passes in a solid all-around display.