The Tampa Rowdies made moves this week to improve their defense ahead of the 2020 USL Championship season.
Joining the club is Aaron Guillen and Forrest Lasso, a pair of defenders who played heavy minutes for stellar backlines this past season. Guillen, 26, comes to Tampa Bay from North Carolina FC and Lasso, 26, joins from Nashville SC.
Both players were free agents and signed two-year contracts with Tampa Bay, according to a release from the club. No other terms of the deals were released.
“Aaron had a fantastic season last year at NCFC and was someone we worked tirelessly to bring to club as it is hard to find defenders with his type of qualities in the USL Championship,” Rowdies head coach Neill Collins said in a statement. “Aaron is excellent on the ball but just as importantly is a very good defender. It is important we continue to build our exciting brand of football and adding Aaron is an important part of doing that.”
Of Lasso, Collins said: “The qualities Forrest brings to our team are pretty obvious to anyone that has seen him play with his fantastic aerial ability and the huge presence he brings to the heart of our defense. On top of that he has a real hunger and desire to succeed that I think will help improve us as a team. I think the best way to sum up signing Forrest is I am glad we do not have to play against him next season.”
Guillen is a native of Dallas, Texas and spent time in the FC Dallas youth academy. He appeared in eight games with the MLS side between the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Guillen spent the past two seasons with NCFC and became a staple on their defense, logging 58 appearances and more than 5,000 minutes.
NCFC had the fifth-best defense in the Eastern Conference, allowing just 37 goals over 34 matches. Guillen led the team in interceptions with 37 and was second in clearances with 91. He also tallied two assists.
Nashville had the best defense in the entire USL Championship last season, allowing just 26 goals and posting 16 clean sheets. Lasso played a crucial role on that defense when he arrived in Nashville mid-season on-loan from FC Cincinnati. He appeared in just 12 matches, but played well enough to earn his third straight All-League First Team honors. He scored a goal and had two assists for Nashville, too.
Lasso made the jump from USL to MLS with FC Cincinnati, but was loaned to Nashville after appearing in just five MLS games.
Tampa Bay went 16-10-8 last season and advanced to the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. They now have 13 players under contract for the 2020 season.
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