Poto by Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies

The Tampa Bay Rowdies confirmed on Tuesday that nine players from the 2020 squad that claimed the USL Championship Eastern Conference championship will be returning for next season. That number could grow in the coming weeks, but among the nine are Rowdies captain Sebastian Guenzatti and USL Defender of the Year Forrest Lasso.

“We are excited to see the core of our team return next season and believe this group of players can build upon last season’s success because they all share a collective desire to win, and that is exactly what we are looking for in 2021,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “I would like to thank each player that was part of such a memorable season in 2020 and wish them all the best in the future.”

Perhaps the biggest coup for Collins is the fact that all three of his starting center backs will be back for follow-up seasons after stellar debuts this year. Forrest Lasso, Aaron Guillen, Jordan Scarlett were all newcomers to the Rowdies in 2020 and each excelled in helping the club post its best defensive record of the modern era by allowing the second fewest goals in the league.

Four of Tampa Bay’s midfielders will also make a return in 2021. That list includes Jordan Doherty and Yann Ekra, both of whom will be suiting up for their third season with the Rowdies. The youngest player on the roster, Doherty made himself an integral part of Collins’ plans in the center of the field throughout 2020. Also coming back to the midfield are Lewis Hilton and Sebastian Dalgaard. As a regular striker of corners and free kicks, Hilton had a hand in the Rowdies becoming a lethal side on set pieces and was second on the team in chances created. Dalgaard was a versatile piece for the Rowdies, filling in on both wings well when need be.

Up top Rowdies captain Sebastian Guenzatti will be sticking around for a fifth season with the Green and Gold. With 36 goals for the Rowdies under his belt, Guenzatti is also just 11 short of reaching 100 appearances with the club. Alongside Guenatti will be Juan Tejada, who recently made his senior debut with Panama’s national team in a friendly against the United States. Next year will be Tejada’a third in Tampa Bay and. He managed to notch two goals and two assists this season despite missing the final month of the shortened schedule due to an injury.

“We look forward to having these talented players back in 2021,” said Lee Cohen, president of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. “They were instrumental in our success this past season, and we are excited to have them on the field to help propel us back to the championship. We are hopeful to see more players from the 2020 season return very soon.”

As noted by Cohen, it’s possible the Rowdies may still secure more players to return in the near future. Players like keeper Evan Louro, midfielders Leo Fernandes and Malik Johnson, as well as forward Lucky Mkosana are likely high up on the wish list of many Rowdies supporters this offseason. There has been no official word on when the 2021 season will start or when players might start training again.

Confirmed to Return: Forrest Lasso, Jordan Scarlett, Aaron Guillen, Jordan Doherty, Lewis Hilton, Yann Ekra, Sebastian Dalgaard, Sebastian Guenzatti, Juan Tejada.

Unconfirmed Status: Evan Louro, Macklin Robinson, Ian McGrane, Alex Davey, Mustapha Dumbuya, Dominic Oduro, Zach Steinberger, Max Lachowecki, Leo Fernandes, Malik Johnson, Adam Najem, Kevin Mendoza, Kyle Murphy, Lucky Mkosana, 

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