by JAKE NUTTING
Another week into the preseason and there wasn’t much indication that the Tampa Bay Rowdies have shaken off their offseason rust just yet. The home side was unable to overcome a first half devoid of harmony and dropped their second match of the preseason to the Philadelphia Union 2-0.
First Half Starting XI: GK Michael Langer – D Jeremy Hall, Frankie Sanfilippo, Stefan Antonijevic, Ben Sweat – M Juan Guerra, Verneri Välimaa, Junior Burgos, – F Kalif Alhassan, Tommy Heinemann, Darwin Espinal.
Head coach Stuart Campbell stuck with a 4-3-3 on paper again this week, although there were long stretches of the opening half where it didn’t look very much like that was what the team was attempting.
The visitors came out with a level of energy that the Rowdies had trouble matching and pressed the Rowdies into numerous bad giveaways. As a result of the midfield channels being shut down, the Rowdies turned to the long ball out of the back. Center forward Tommy Heinemann, who looked lonely up top throughout much of the half, didn’t have a high rate of success on those hopeful balls in the air.
Poor set piece marking put the Rowdies in a deficit early on in the 17th minute. The Rowdies were forced to clear a free kick into the box out for a corner and Philadelphia did not waste that opportunity. Ilsinho delivered a terrific curling ball toward the center of the box that an unmarked Ken Tribbett dove to meet and redirect into the net.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the first half was the high volume of unpressured giveaways and serious defensive lapses that didn’t seem to be an issue in last week’s match. Midfielder Juan Guerra had a particularly difficult half, gifting the Union a breakaway with a man advantage twice and also being beaten on the second goal.
Guerra moved in to close down Ilsinho on the left touchline, but the attacker played a deft give and go with a teammate and quickly found himself sprinting past Guerra into the box. He then picked out former New York Cosmos midfielder Leo Fernandes charging into the box, who took advantage of lax marking and blasted a shot into the net on his first touch.
One of the few players to show flashes of in-season quality was Darwin Espinal after he switched to the left flank. Espinal did well to charge defenders and force them into uncomfortable decisions. The only factor missing for the Honduran international was the final pass to connect with a teammate, although there were a few instances where he had no help progressing forward into the final third and was forced to pass back.
Second Half Starting XI: GK Chris Glodack – Darnell King, Frankie Sanfilippo, Stefan Antonijevic, Ben Sweat – M Konstantine Mollinger (trialist), Juan Guerra, Darwin Espinal – F Kalif Alhassan, Danny Mwanga, Walter Ramirez
The halftime lineup changes by Campbell seemed to provide a slight improvement to the cohesiveness of the Rowdies attack. As the Union’s legs began to grow tired, the Rowdies were able to find open passing lanes and play the ball on the ground a bit more. Unfortunately, though, they were unable to convert any of that into much in the final third.
Trialist Konstantine Mollinger nearly took everyone by surprise early into the second half when he connected with Danny Mwanga on a give-and-go at the top of Philadelphia’s box that left the midfielder in a one-on-one situation with the keeper. Mollinger’s shot attempt, though, was directed right at the keeper for a routine safe. It was the only shot on net from the Rowdies of the night.
Notably, Freddy Adu got his first run out of the preseason, coming on to compete against his former MLS club for the final 30 minutes. Adu didn’t have much luck making an impact on the match, lifting a free kick directly in front of goal into the stands and delivering a slightly too heavy through ball for Darnell King into the box.
Sophomore keeper Chris Glodack had the highlight of the half for the Rowdies. The 22-year-old single-handedly kept the Union from doubling their lead in the span of 60 seconds late in the match. First he denied former Cosmos player Walter Restrepo with a strong diving save to his right in the 82nd minute and he then thwarted a threatening attempt on net on the ensuing corner by tipping the ball over the bar.