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Tampa Bay Rowdies 2022 Season Preview

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/03/22, 5:00PM EST


2022 Outlook

There might have been no better example of the highs and lows of a postseason than the Tampa Bay Rowdies last fall, with their comeback victory against Louisville City FC in the Eastern Conference Final one of the greatest games in league history, and the defeat to Orange County SC after an early penalty kick by Sebastian Guenzatti was denied before a packed house at Al Lang Stadium leaving the hosts without the title they coveted.

After setting club records for victories and points to earn the best record in the USL Championship last campaign, though, the Rowdies will be back to defend their Eastern Conference crown with almost all their key players back. The two significant departures are that of 2021 Championship Goalkeeper of the Year Evan Louro and Defender of the Year Forrest Lasso, but much of the squad that played a key role in the club’s success return. Leading the way is Guenzatti, whose 22 goals across the regular season and playoffs set a career high. He’s joined by three other forwards who have also recorded 50 goals in the Championship in returning forwards Steevan Dos Santos and Lucky Mkosana and newcomer Kyle Greig.

Elsewhere, returning goalkeeper Raiko Arozarena and veteran CJ Cochran will battle for the starting position in net, while new arrival Timmy Mehl could slot in centrally alongside the returning center back duo of Aaron Guillen and Jordan Scarlett. In midfield, the duo of Lewis Hilton and Laurence Wyke are both back while Leo Fernandes will likely add to his legacy as one of the Rowdies’ top modern-era players either at wingback or an attacking midfield role with Conner Antley, Dayonn Harris and Sebastian Dalgaard also likely to feature regularly. After back-to-back Eastern Conference titles, the Rowdies should certainly be among the top contenders for the title again this year.

Notable Arrivals

C.J. Cochran – Veteran goalkeeper joins on season-long loan from OKC Energy FC

Jake Areman – Wide midfielder should be good fit for Rowdies system after success in Charlotte

Jake LaCava – Young forward joins on season-long loan after signing with New York Red Bulls

Kyle Greig – Veteran striker adds to experienced group in Rowdies’ forward line

Notable Departures

Forrest Lasso – Three-time Championship Defender of the Year headed to Europe as free agent

Evan Louro – 2021 Championship Goalkeeper of the Year departed after standout two seasons

Jordan Doherty – Young Irish midfielder returned to home country to sign with Bohemians

Zach Steinberger – Experienced midfielder called time on career with retirement

Two To Watch

Sebastian Guenzatti

Sebastian Guenzatti, Forward

No striker in the USL Championship has been more prolific over the past three seasons than Sebastian Guenzatti, whose 51 goals across the regular season and playoffs are seven more than nearest competitor Neco Brett. That’s put Guenzatti within range of passing Georgi Hristov for the most goals all-time in Rowdies history, with his 58 goals across all competitions putting him two back of the Bulgarian club legend. What’s remarkable is the underlying numbers say that Guenzatti could actually have scored more than he’s tallied in that span – his Expected Goals mark sits at 57.78xG – but after recording his first 20-goal campaign in the Championship and earning All-League First Team honors a season ago the Rowdies’ captain is likely more concerned with helping the side lift the second league title of its modern era after last year’s disappointment in the Championship Final.  

Leo Fernandes

Leo Fernandes, Midfielder

While Guenzatti has been in the spotlight for his scoring accomplishments for the Rowdies, Leo Fernandes might have taken on the mantle of one of the most underrated players in the Championship. The former Philadelphia Union player will enter his sixth season with Tampa Bay in 2022 having passed 100 appearances for the club in the past campaign while having racked up a +24.25 Goals Added mark over the past five seasons. That’s second only to Guenzatti on the team in that span, with Fernandes ability to play as a wingback in the Rowdies’ 3-5-2 system but also have the versatility to slip inside as one of the attacking midfielders making him a major asset to the club. Fernandes has yet to earn All-League honors in his career, but his influence on the field and in the locker room should arguably be drawing more attention. 


Neill Collins (5th Season)

Neill Collins coached the Rowdies to their best regular season in the club’s modern era, and the third-most points in a Championship regular season, in 2021 to earn Coach of the Year honors only for the ending to be spoiled in the Championship Final. That result notwithstanding, Collins’ balance of focused seriousness and ability to let his players stay loose has brought Tampa Bay a consistent title contender and marked Collins himself as a coach who could be destined for bigger things.

Key Number

60.93 The Tampa Bay Rowdies had an Expected Goals mark of 60.93xG in the 2021 regular season but notched only 55 goals, making them the only team in the league’s top 10 in goals to underperform its xG mark. If Tampa Bay can sharpen up there, the side could become even more formidable this season.

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