Rowdies fine-tune an already stellar lineup ahead of season opener

Even though previous season ended in the most bitter trend, the Tampa Bay Rowdies hardly were being in have to have of an overhaul. Soon after all, they experienced the finest record in the overall USL Championship.

With just a few noteworthy changes, the Rowdies embark on their 2022 time Sunday when they pay a visit to Birmingham Legion FC in a 5 p.m. match that will air nationally on ESPN2.

The Rowdies dumped Birmingham in each individual of the earlier two postseasons en route to successful the Eastern Conference. Past year’s match was a tight 1- affair in the conference semifinals, in advance of the extra time rally in opposition to Louisville that landed Tampa Bay in the final.

The Rowdies, at 26-7-2, appeared poised to declare the league trophy but Orange County experienced other suggestions. Rowdies captain Sebastian Guenzatti was stopped on a penalty kick early, and the guests surprised Tampa Bay with 3 1st-50 percent plans, winning 3-1.

“Many persons would say that immediately after the time that we experienced, it is tricky to increase,” mentioned Neill Collins, into his fifth period as Tampa Bay’s head coach. “So you’re starting off to appear extra at the finer facts. I imagine on paper, our squad, the competition’s genuinely unbelievable.”

Steevan Dos Santos missed time with a broken foot last season, but he still notched 12 goals for the Rowdies.
Steevan Dos Santos missed time with a damaged foot final time, but he however notched 12 objectives for the Rowdies. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Guenzatti, two shy of the profession franchise report with 58 goals, gathered 22 past period and returns together with primarily each individual attacking player of importance. That team consists of veteran Steevan Dos Santos, who in his initially Rowdies’ season additional 12 goals inspite of lacking almost three months with a broken foot, and playmaker Leo Fernandes (eight goals, 6 helps).

But the lengthy spell exactly where various forwards were harm led Collins to bolster the attacking team. Kyle Greig, 31, who scored five aims for Louisville final year and 23 throughout the past three with Saint Louis, was introduced in. And 22-calendar year-aged Jake LaCava, who scored 11 aims in two years for New York Red Bulls II, prompting the MLS club to re-signal him, will shell out the yr on financial loan to Tampa Bay.

“Kyle will give us a hand, and with Jake, mindful he’s a youthful player, I have got a whole lot of anticipations for him,” Collins mentioned. “I assume he serves very effectively in conditions of his angle, his function charge, but on prime of that he’s acquired serious high quality to dribble and drive at individuals. He’s another person who can rating aims from outside the box, which is maybe some thing that we have not experienced as significantly of.”

With super sub Blessed Mkosana and Juan Tejada again, one more youngster in 24-year-old Dayonn Harris maybe poised for a breakout, and midfield stalwarts Lewis Hilton, Sebastian Dalgaard, Laurence Wyke and Yann Ekra all in the fold, the Rowdies look to have couple issues offensively.

There are, nonetheless, two significant holes to fill on defense, where Tampa Bay was tops in the league. Forrest Lasso, the USL Defender of the 12 months the previous two seasons, signed with GFI Sundsvall in Sweden. And goalkeeper Evan Louro, who tore his ACL although celebrating the convention championship earn, is a no cost agent whilst rehabbing his knee.

Robert Castellanos is no stranger to the USL and will be on loan from Nashville SC this season.
Robert Castellanos is no stranger to the USL and will be on bank loan from Nashville SC this time. [ ANGEL MARCHINI | ]

Two-calendar year starters for Tampa Bay, Aaron Guillen and Jordan Scarlett, are back, and Connor Antley can engage in defensive midfield, but the Rowdies signed D Timmy Mehl, 26, absent from Loudon United. And just Friday the workforce formally introduced that Robert Castellanos, who used four seasons in the USL prior to Nashville SC signed him, will be on personal loan from the MLS squad. Nashville played a three-guy backline mirroring the Rowdies, and Castellanos could slot in Lasso’s middle location.

Goalkeeping will be managed by possibly CJ Cochran, who has extra than 100 skilled appearances and designed 31 starts (nine shutouts) for Oklahoma Town final year, or Raiko Arozarena, the brother of Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena.

Tampa Bay went 3-1-1 in the preseason.

“We’re searching superior,” Guenzatti reported. “We’re even now the same Rowdies as the last two or three many years, so you’re going to see a ton of the same, but a good deal of new faces as effectively so it’s likely to be thrilling.”

Sunday’s opponent dropped quite a few of its top scorers but will no doubt be juiced for the initial frequent-time match in its new venue. Legion FC will engage in at Protective Stadium, a 45,000-seat arena that opened previous 12 months as the new home for College of Alabama-Birmingham football.