ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rowdies have been painfully close to winning the USL Championship Final in each of the last two seasons. In 2020, they made it to the title game before COVID canceled it. Last year, the Rowdies hosted the championship game but lost 3-1 to Orange County. This season, Tampa Bay feels like they have some unfinished business.
"It’s hard not to be defined by one game. When that game’s the difference between adding a star to your crest or not," said head coach Neill Collins. "But we try all the time to not let one game define us. If we can do better than we did last year, that’s going to be fantastic. That’s the level and the standards we’ve set. And that’s what we’re going to try and do."
Rowdies captain Sebastian "Seba" Guenzatti is entering his sixth season with the team. Seba is three goals shy of becoming the franchise's all-time leading scorer. The current record of 60 is held by Guenzatti's friend and former Rowdies star Georgi Hristov.
"Georgi’s a great friend of mine. He’s an unbelievable person," Seba said after practice. "He tells me to beat the record every time. It’s a good competition we’ve got going on. I try not to think about it too much. All I try to do is try and make the team win. And try and help out as much as I can."
Guenzatti's had opportunities to move on from Tampa Bay, but management resigned him to a new deal this offseason.
"I think it also says a lot about the club, the team, the owners. That we’ve worked so hard to keep him, and we’ve been able to keep him," Collins added. "I think he’s in the best place, and I think he’s proven- as you look at his career as a whole- that we’ve been great for him, and he’s definitely been great for us."
The two-time reigning Eastern Conference champions open the regular season Sunday at Birmingham Legion FC. The kickoff is set for 5 p.m.