ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 6, 2019) – The Tampa Bay Rowdies broke their offensive slump in a big way Saturday night, powering past Hartford Athletic 4-0 in a dominant performance at Al Lang Stadium.
Sebastian Guenzatti scored a pair of goals, and David Najem and Andrew Tinari added one apiece as the Rowdies picked up their fourth 4-0 win in the Modern Era. Leo Fernandes had two assists and could have had three if not for a slight deflection on the opening goal.
“I’m pleased for the boys. Honestly, I’m so pleased,” Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins said. “Last Saturday I was so frustrated because they didn’t get the plaudits that their play deserved. Obviously we all looked at the scoreline, a 0-0 draw, and you go home disappointed not to see goals. Everything was there, but the final goal. Tonight, they upped it again and I’m delighted for the boys.”
While there were no bad moments, the highlight of the night came midway through the second half when Najem scored his goal. In his first competitive appearance since tearing an ACL five games into last season, Najem needed only 63 seconds to score, capping a comeback that he worked hard to make.
“Sports are amazing,” Collins said. “David Najem has had so many ups and downs over the past twelve months. He’s been a consummate professional and a fantastic person. Tonight he got a small reward for all his hard work and the medical staff get to enjoy that moment. They’ve worked so hard with him.”
Najem’s ACL tear came on April 14 of last season, just under one year ago.
“I’ve been waiting for that moment for a long time,” Najem said. “I’m just thankful to my teammates, the staff and the fans. They had my back since day one since I went down on the field and they got me back to where I am today. That goal was just a reward for them, honestly.”
Tampa Bay (3-0-2, 11 points) came into match in a bit of a scoring slump with four total goals from four matches to start the year. The Rowdies showed no mercy and matched that total against a Hartford (0-5-0, 0 points) side still looking for its first points in franchise history.
Prior to Saturday night, Hartford hadn’t lost by more than two goals and each of its last three losses were by one. That was not the case in St. Petersburg.
Guenzatti opened the scoring with a tap-in in the 37th minute to give the Rowdies a 1-0 lead at the break.
Najem doubled the advantage in the 58th minute with his first goal of the season and Tinari made it 3-0 with another tap-in in the 71st. Despite being up 3-0, the Rowdies kept pushing.
Guenzatti scored his team-high fourth goal of the season on a Fernandes corner kick in the 78th minute to complete the rout.
The Rowdies took a season-high 21 shots (10 on target, also a season high.) Hartford managed seven (five on target.) John McCarthy saved all five to post his fourth clean sheet in five matches since joining the Rowdies.
With the result, Tampa Bay remains in second place in the Eastern Conference heading into a showdown against two-time defending champion Louisville City FC at Al Lang Stadium next Saturday night, April 13. For tickets, call (727) 222-2000 or click here.
Tampa Bay: Sebastian Guenzatti - 37th minute
Tampa Bay: David Najem - 58th minute
Tampa Bay: Andrew Tinari - 71st minute (assisted by Leo Fernandes)
Tampa Bay: Sebastian Guenzatti - 78th minute (assisted by Leo Fernandes)
Tampa Bay: Pape Diakite - 67th minute
Hartford: Ryan Williams - 73rd minute
Hartford: Sem De Wit - 86th minute
Rowdies XI (3-5-2): GK John McCarthy; D Tarek Morad, Pape Diakite, Caleb Richards; M Shawn Barry (David Najem 57'), Yann Ekra, Dom Oduro, Andrew Tinari, Leo Fernandes; F Antoine Hoppenot (Juan Tejada 83'), Sebastian Guenzatti (c) (Brandon Allen 80')
Hartford XI (4-3-3): GK Jacob Lissek; D Kyle Curinga, Sem De Wit, Tyler David, Raymond Lee; M Philip Rasmussen (c), Jonathan Brown (Alex Dixon 72'), Giuseppe Gentile; F Ryan Williams, Mac Steeves (Jose Angulo 72'), Mads Jorgensen (Wojciech Wojcik 65')