ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (February 24, 2018) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies picked up their first win of the preseason, topping the Philadelphia Union 2-1 in the final match of the 2018 Rowdies Suncoast Invitational on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium.
The Rowdies benefitted from first-half goals scored by Jochen Graf and Michael Nanchoff in a thoroughly convincing win over Major League Soccer opposition.
Haris Medunjanin pulled a goal back for Philadelphia with a free kick in the 84th minute and the Union had another chance or two before the final whistle, but it didn’t take the shine off the Rowdies’ overall performance.
“I think the team put in a really good performance tonight,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “Preseason isn’t necessarily about wins and losses, but winning tonight against a very good team is a nice bonus. The performance is really what I’m proud about though.”
The Rowdies opened the match on the front foot and had to wait only 19 minutes to score the first goal of the match.
Tampa Bay midfielder Jack Blake served a ball forward for Jochen Graf that tempted Union goalkeeper Andre Blake to come off his line. With Blake caught in no-man’s land, Graf delicately chipped the ball over the goalkeeper and into the far netting for his second goal in as many matches.
In the 35th minute, Michael Nanchoff doubled the Rowdies’ lead with a tidy left-footed finish on an assist from David Najem to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead before halftime.
Campbell made only one change at halftime as the Rowdies continued to progress toward the start of the USL regular season on March 17. Other than Junior Flemmings, who was replaced at the break by Georgi Hristov, all of the Rowdies’ starters stayed in the match and played at least an hour.
“In the first couple of games, we’ve made a lot of changes at halftime, but we spoke about wanting to get most of the guys at least 60 minutes tonight,” Campbell said. “It can be hard in preseason to go back out for the second half after sitting for 15 minutes, so we wanted to push as many guys as possible.”
The Rowdies made eight total substitutions, including the entrance of Lance Rozeboom in the 76th minute to make his first appearance since joining the Rowdies this offseason. Cody Mizell, Ivan Magalhães and Sebastian Guenzatti all played 90 minutes.
Philadelphia cut into the Rowdies’ lead in the 84th minute with a spectacular Haris Medunjanin free kick that gave Cody Mizell no chance to make the save, but Tampa Bay would hold on for the final few minutes to clinch the victory.
Tampa Bay: GK Cody Mizell; D David Najem (Kyle Curinga 90'), Neill Collins (Hunter Gorskie 71'), Ivan Magalhães, Zac Portillos (Max Lachowecki 89'); M Jack Blake (Lance Rozeboom 76'), Michael Nanchoff (Alex Morrell 80'); M Junior Flemmings (Georgi Hristov 46'), Joe Cole (Martin Vingaard 62'), Sebastian Guenzatti; F Jochen Graf (Leo Fernandes 68')
Philadelphia: GK Andre Blake; D Ray Gaddis, Josh Yaro, Richie Marquez, Matt Real; M Derrick Jones, Warren Creavalle, Adam Najem, Fabian Herbers, Marcus Epps; F Jay Simpson