Rowdies Held to 1-1 Draw by Atlanta
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rowdies were held to a 1-1 home draw by a savvy Atlanta United 2 side on Saturday night, the Rowdies first draw in more than two months.
The result keeps Tampa Bay (15-5-8, 53 points) in third place in the USL Championship's Eastern Conference with six games left to play. The 2019 Rowdies have now equaled the 2017 team's Modern Era record for most points earned in a season.
"When you're at home, you want to win and we always put a big emphasis on performance," Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins said. "There's lot of positives in terms of performance but I don't think we were at our best tonight. ... When you're playing against a possession-based team, it can be difficult (to chase a game.)"
Atlanta (6-16-6, 24 points) executed its game plan well, making the Rowdies spend most of the night chasing the ball by dominating possession. The visitors recorded 61.7 percent possession, limiting the Rowdies to a season-low 38.3 percent. Tampa Bay has averaged just short of 53 percent possession this season.
In the first meeting between the sides, the Rowdies cancelled an early deficit and won 4-1 despite having just 42.6 percent possession. History did not repeat itself Saturday night.
After a positive start from the Rowdies, Atlanta took advantage of a botched Rowdies clearance in the 13th minute with Laurence Wyke heading his side ahead 1-0 from short range.
With a lead in hand, Atlanta settled in and made things difficult for the Rowdies.
Tampa Bay felt unfortunate to not be given a penalty kick in the 27th minute after Sebastian Guenzatti's legs were impeded by Atlanta defender Wesly Decas just inside Atlanta's 18-yard box.
Guenzatti would take the decision out of the referee's hands just four minutes later, receiving a pass from Leo Fernandes and poking it past Atlanta goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira to tie the match in the 31st minute.
It was Guenzatti's team-high 15th goal of the season and Fernandes' team-high eighth assist of the year. Guenzatti's 15 goals equal Georgi Hristov's Modern Era record for goals in a season from 2017.
"We're disappointed with the score obviously," Guenzatti said. "I think we deserved a little more but we've got to show it. ... (A draw) isn't very good. We were looking for a win."
Malik Johnson nearly put the Rowdies ahead in the 71st minute with but Castanheira made the first of two saves in a dodgy few minutes for Atlanta midway through the second half. Wesly Decas nearly scored an own goal in the 73rd minute by deflecting a Jordan Doherty cross, only for Castanheira to make a diving save.
The Rowdies now head north of the border to take on Ottawa Fury FC on Wednesday night at TD Place before returning home to host Bethlehem Steel FC next Saturday, September 21. Tickets are available here.
Atlanta: Laurence Wyke - 13th minute
Tampa Bay: Sebastian Guenzatti - 31st minute (assisted by Leo Fernandes)
Atlanta: Jackson Conway - 35th minute
Tampa Bay: Dom Oduro - 68th minute
Tampa Bay (3-5-2): GK John McCarthy; D Tarek Morad, Pape Diakite, Caleb Richards; M Malik Johnson, Dom Oduro, Andrew Tinari (Kwadwo Poku 60'), Jordan Doherty (Lucky Mkosana 78'), Leo Fernandes; F Sebastian Guenzatti (c), Juan Tejada (Jaime Siaj 70')
Atlanta (4-3-3): GK Dylan Castanheira; D George Bello (Guillermo Benitez 45'), Wesly Decas, Laurence Wyke, Michael Ambrose; M Jack Metcalf (c), Jose Hernandez (George Campbell 63'), Kevin Kratz; F Amir Bashti, Luiz Fernando (Laurent Kissiedou 77'), Jackson Conway
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