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Three Things: Rowdies 1 - 2 Nashville

September 5, 2019 - United Soccer League Championship (USL) - Tampa Bay Rowdies News Release

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rowdies played well Saturday night but were beaten by an opportunistic Nashville SC side in an entertaining match between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Here's Three Things from the match...

1. Guenzatti's record

The Tampa Bay Rowdies have a new modern era regular season scoring champ after captain Sebastian Guenzatti netted his 14th goal of the regular season early in the second half. The goal itself wasn't much, a reactionary tap-in after Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens parried a Kwadwo Poku shot right into his path, but it carried significance for the record books.

The record was previously held by Georgi Hristov, who scored 13 goals in the 2017 regular season before adding two more in the postseason to set the single-season scoring mark at 15. Guenzatti's next goal would tie that.

After a slow start to last season, Guenzatti heated up at the end of the year starting with a hat trick against North Carolina FC on September 1. He ended the year with five goals from the Rowdies last nine matches and he's carried that form into this season. In five seasons with the New York Cosmos, Guenzatti tallied 10 goals. In the last calendar year with the Rowdies, Guenzatti has netted 19 times.

He is tied for third in the USL Championship's Golden Boot race, six goals behind leader Solomon Asante of Phoenix Rising FC.


2. The East gets tighter

As the calendar hits September, it's anyone's guess how the top of the Eastern Conference will end up. Seven weekends remain in the regular season and the race is at tight as ever for playoff seeding. The pack itself is beginning to solidify, but where everyone will finish is impossible to predict. It realistically seems like any of the current top seven teams, from New York all the way down to Louisville, could secure a top four seed and a home game in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The East is much tighter at the top than the West, where the difference between first-place Phoenix and second-place Fresno (15 points) is larger than the gap between first-place New York and eighth-place Ottawa (14 points.)

As a reminder, the top 10 teams in each conference qualify for the postseason. The No. 7 team will play the No. 10 team and No. 8 will play No. 9 midweek immediately after the regular season ends to narrow the field to eight teams. From there, it's a typical single-elimination, single-legged knockout bracket with the higher seed hosting.

Here's how Tampa Bay has done against the teams currently in the playoff field:

1. New York (series split, 2-0 win for the home team in each match)

2. Nashville (series split, road team won both matches)

4. Indy Eleven (Tampa Bay drew 0-0 in Indianapolis on May 8, the season series will be decided Oct. 12 in St. Pete)

5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (Rowdies won season series with 2-0 home win, 1-1 road draw)

6. North Carolina FC (Rowdies lost season series, losing twice by combined score of 7-3)

7. Louisville City FC (Teams drew 1-1 in St. Pete on April 13, series will be decided Sept. 28 in Louisville)

8. Ottawa Fury FC (Rowdies won 2-1 in St. Pete and will visit Ottawa on Sept. 18)

9. Birmingham Legion FC (Rowdies split season series with 2-0 road win, 1-0 home loss)

10. Charleston Battery (Rowdies won season series with 1-1 home draw and 5-0 road win)

At this time, forecasting website FiveThirtyEight projects the Rowdies as the second favorite to win the Eastern Conference, 3 percent behind Nashville SC. Similarly, the Rowdies are third-favorite to win the USL Championship at 9 percent, two points behind Nashville. Phoenix leads the pack at 41 percent.

3. Pickens comes up big

The Rowdies didn't play poorly Saturday night. As Nicholas Murray notes in The 18, for most of the second half, it felt like the Rowdies were much more likely to win the match after coming out of the halftime break inspired. Tampa Bay took the first eight shots of the first half, but could only manage to beat familiar face Matt Pickens once. Ultimately, the Rowdies were punished by a goal that came against the run of play.

Tampa Bay recorded eight shots on target, nearly double their season average (4.6) but Pickens made seven saves in his return to Al Lang Stadium. He has now played here twice since leaving Tampa Bay for Nashville and has come up with a big performance in both games. Last season, he made five saves in a 1-1 draw.

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United Soccer League Championship Stories from September 5, 2019

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