ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 5, 2019) – If Sebastian Guenzatti looked around the Tampa Bay Rowdies locker room on the first day of preseason training and felt a little lonely, you couldn’t blame him.
Guenzatti, in his third season with the Rowdies, is one of the few holdovers from a major offseason roster revamp. Guenzatti, Leo Fernandes and David Najem are the only three players on the 2019 roster that were on Tampa Bay’s 2018 opening day roster. Only Guenzatti and Fernandes remain from the 2017 season.
A total of eight players returned from last season, but the majority of those were signed midseason after Neill Collins hung up the boots and took over as head coach.
With an influx of new players almost all of which are younger than the 27-year-old Uruguayan, Guenzatti suddenly found himself a veteran voice in a locker room full of strangers.
“This is my first time being a captain,” he said. “I went from being one of the young guys to one of the oldest guys real quick. It’s been a learning experience for me. I’ve had great captains in past in Uruguay, with the Cosmos and here with the Rowdies. I tried to learn a little bit from each one of them that I’ve shared a field with in the past. I’ve learned from players like Joe Cole, Marcel Schafer, Marcos Senna, Raul – great guys with huge names that taught me a lot.”
After struggling for opportunities and goals in the first half of last season, Guenzatti closed 2018 on a tear. He scored five goals Tampa Bay’s final nine matches, including the second hat trick in modern club history in a 3-0 win over North Carolina FC.
That form has continued on into 2019. He leads the team in scoring with six goals in 13 matches.
“This is my first year that I’m actually playing as a target forward in my career since I was in Uruguay (in 2013),” Guenzatti said. “It’s been a while, so it’s kind of like starting all over. I know I have what it takes to be a forward and I just want to get better every day with the help of Pato and the coaching staff. It’s been a great year so far for me.”
Under Guenzatti’s leadership, the Rowdies have so far been the class of the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay is the only unbeaten team in league play this season and holds a six-point cushion at the top of the Eastern Conference. Guenzatti thinks the early season success comes down to the team’s mentality.
“I just think the attitude of the team is different (from last year,)” Guenzatti said. “The mentality of the club has changed a lot over the last year. The coaches and players have a big role in showing up every day with the right attitude and working hard.
“I think the coaching staff did a great job this offseason picking the right players with the right mentality,” he continued. “It’s not just about skill all the time. Everybody has to have the right mentality and be 100 percent focused every day. I think we have a team that believes that and every player comes in here every day ready to work and to try to win their spot on the field because nobody has their spot guaranteed. We compete every day.”
Tampa Bay will be put to the test once again Saturday night when North Carolina FC comes to town. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available here.