When: 7:30 pm, Saturday, March 26th 2022
Where: Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg FL
Last Meeting: Rowdies W 2-1 at HFD on September 25, 2021
|Neill Collins||Head Coach||Harry Watling|
vs. Atlanta United 2
|Last Match||L 2-1 |
at Pittsburgh Riverhounds
1: Tejada/Dos Santos
|Goals||1: Obregon Jr|
8: Jake LaCava
|3: Cochran||Saves||2: Pack|
|2: Cochran||Clean Sheets||n/a|
Connecticut Connections: Sebastian Dalgaard played for Hartford in 2019 before joining Tampa Bay in 2020. Rowdies assistant coach Jon Stead began his coaching career last year as a member of Hartford’s technical staff. Rowdies forward Jake LaCava was born in New Milford, CT
Hartford Athletic are coming off a season opening 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on the road. Hartford got caught on their heels in the first half, conceding a Robby Dambrot goal in the 12th minute. Hartford was able to weather the storm and hold the Hounds to a one-goal lead before Prince Saydee took a quality touch and crossed a pass to a streaking Juan Carlos Obregón Jr. who touched in the equalizing goal. Shortly after, a game changing second yellow card and subsequent ejection was issued to Peter-Lee Vassell in the 40th minute. After a rocket of a goal from Kenardo Forbes early in the second half (51’), Hartford had an uphill climb while being down a man in the second half and could not find an equalizer.
Hartford Athletic added experience and leadership to their already talented defensive unit ahead of the 2022 season. Modou Jadama, a five-year proven USL veteran, and Tom Brewitt, a serial leader in his career and captain for Tacoma Defiance in 2021 were brought in to raise the standard of defending for the club. Hartford returns Ash Apollon, Younes Boudadi, and Tulu from last year’s strong back line.
Austin Pack joins Hartford Athletic with big shoes to fill as the team’s last line of defense. Jeff Caldwell, now with Colorado Switchbacks FC, made a single-season club record 108 saves (second most in entire USL Championship) and was a Goalkeeper of the Year Finalist. Despite the tall order, Pack is a top level goalkeeper that can provide Hartford Athletic with exactly what they need. He spent the 2021 season with the Charlotte Independence and made 20 starts, recorded 51 saves, and six clean sheets. In Hartford’s first match against Pittsburgh, Pack only saw four shots on goal and saved two of them.
Despite only producing one goal last week, Hartford showed promise in their set pieces against Pittsburgh. Tom Brewitt nearly gave his team an early lead when he found an open space and headed a corner kick just wide of the net off of a well-struck delivery from Danny Barrera. The Green and Blue also had a free kick opportunity from just a few yards off Pittsburgh’s end line in stoppage time. In a last ditch effort to equalize, Andre Lewis fed a perfectly placed ball to Jeciel Cedeño, who’s shot was blocked and headed to Younes Boudadi, who’s shot was booted away by a Riverhounds defender just in front of the goal line. If Hartford can find the back of net through a set piece on Saturday, it just may be the winning formula against a Tampa Bay squad that has only conceded once in three matches so far in 2022.
About Tampa Bay:
The Tampa Bay Rowdies look to close out a busy week with their third straight win at Al Lang Stadium this Saturday as they face Hartford Athletic. Hartford will be enter the match on a full week’s rest, while the Rowdies will be playing their third match in eight days.
This week has provided the Rowdies with a good fitness test. The club has remained mainly injury free so far, with midfielder Laurence Wyke being held out form Atlanta for precautionary reasons due to a small knock.
“The boys are full of confidence right now and we’ve got good options,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “They’re all looking fit and fresh and I’m sure looking forward to playing at Al Lang on Saturday. I’m sure is why they put in the performances they did in Atlanta, because they all want to be out here playing. We’ll see how they come out on Saturday, but right now they’re all looking good.”
Hartford has only played one match so far in the young season, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. As convincing as Tampa Bay’s 3-0 win over Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday night and the 2-0 win over Indy Eleven in last week’s home opener were, Collins and his staff will anticipate a tough challenge from Hartford. The Rowdies won three out of their four meetings with Hartford last season, but each match was decided by just one goal.
Through the first three games Sebastian Dalgaard and Jake LaCava lead the Rowdies in scoring with two goals each. LaCava would have likely been a favorite among many to get off to a hot start, but Dalgaard is not the Sebastian most expected to be bagging goals for the Rowdies.
Rowdies captain Sebastian Guenzatti yet to score in 2022, though not for lack of trying. Guenzatti has had quality efforts denied by a keeper in every match so far. Yet Guenzatti is contributing in other meaningful ways as he leads the team with two assists.
Eventually the goals will come for Guenzatti, who remains three goals shy of breaking the Rowdies all-time scoring record. The current record of 60 goals is held by Rowdies legend Georgi Hristov.
Two starts for Conner Antley in the center of Tampa Bay’s three-man back line and so far so good. Antley, Jordan Scarlett, and Aaron Guillen managed to limit Atlanta to just six total shots, none of which were put on frame.
Defensive responsibilities always come first, but Antley offers the Rowdies a different dynamic on the back line. As someone with plenty of experience moving up the field as a right wingback, Antley is more comfortable than most defenders are when it comes to driving up the field with the ball at his feet.