ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rowdies are ready for a replay of the 2020 season, but this time they want to finish it. COVID-19 canceled the USL Championship title game between the Rowdies and Phoenix, a game that was supposed to be held in St. Petersburg. This year, it looks like those two teams are on a collision course to meet again, but Rowdies head coach Neill Collins says his team hasn't been looking too far ahead.
"The opportunity to play in big games. Putting ourselves in that position. Still a long way to go, but I think it’s exciting for everyone involved," Collins said after Friday's practice.
Team captain Sebastian Guenzatti's been involved all season. His 21 goals are a team record for the regular season, and his 57 career tallies are three short of tying the record.
"Everybody’s working for each other, you know. This time it was me, to get two goals, but it could be anybody next game," Seba said. "So we all gotta be prepared. I never thought I’d get to 50-plus goals. But I don’t think about that. I think about this season and playing our best and helping out the team."
Guenzatti credited the team's defense for putting him in a position to be successful. The Rowdies have 14 shutouts this season, including a run of almost nine full games without allowing a goal.
"t’s not just the back three. It’s not just the keepers. We defend as a team," said goalkeeper Evan Louro- who owns 13 shutouts this season. "Especially with the kind of players we have, there’s going to be days when I don’t actually have to save anything. But you know, I think in those situations I just need to communicate and just try and help any way I can."
The Rowdies have clinched home-field advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs. If they win their final two regular-season games they'll get the chance to host the title game. And this time, they actually want to play it.
"There’s a great home advantage to be had," Collins said. "You know, we love playing here, so hopefully we can take advantage of that."
Tampa Bay ends the regular season with games at Loudoun tomorrow night and at Las Vegas on Oct. 30th. They'll host their first playoff game on November 6th (opponent TBA).