Well, THAT was fun, wasn’t it?
During the pregame show, I asked former Rowdies forward Jochen Graf what individuals and teams might do if they found themselves in the kind of slump that Tampa Bay had been in. He was quick to point out that the effort was there and opportunities were being created, so the most important thing to do is to keep doing all of those things and the breaks will come…but he did admit that as a player, he might switch up his boots, or eat a different pregame meal – anything to shake things up a bit and change the course of current events.
Tonight, Tampa Bay did a very similar thing. Having collected zero of the nine points available in their last three matches and struggling to put the ball in the back of the net, the Rowdies got their opening goal just seven minutes in, and from an unexpected source – left centerback Aaron Guillen, who notched his first professional goal.
Primed by his strike, the Rowdies were relentless, swarming the Mob End goal to the tune of 19 shots, 9 on target and several oh so close chances. Poor Laurence Wyke hit the post again and was visibly frustrated. Several shots from close range either sailed over the crossbar, wide of the posts, or were stopped by Loudoun’s keeper, who kept his club in reach during the first 45 minutes.
Tampa Bay returned to the locker room at the half leading by the just the one goal and probably feeling like they should have more. They absolutely should have. Head coach Neill Collins placed his confidence in his starting line-up and they delivered in the second half, as winger Leo Fernandes slotted home from distance seven minutes into the second half. The Virginians were handed a lifeline via Jordan Scarlett’s own goal but never truly felt like a threat to equalize. Just to be safe, Sebastian Guenzatti bagged his ninth of the season, second most in the Eastern Conference, to seal the must-win victory, add 3 points to the ledger, and return to the top of the Atlantic Division table, besting Pittsburgh in total wins and goal differential.
After the last few weeks, I’ll gladly take the win and let the good times roll, but don’t get too overconfident based on this result alone. Loudoun has lost 11 of 13 and their top scorer decamped for parent club DC United before tonight’s match. Still, a win is a win and you get just as many points for a win over Loudoun and you do for a win over Phoenix and the nearly 5,000 in attendance won’t be going home unhappy tonight!