Union match reports

Preseason match report: Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 Philadelphia Union

A Philadelphia Union lineup of mostly reserves fell 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday in their final match of the Rowdies Suncoast Invitational in St. Petersburg, Fla.

First half goals from Jochen Graff and Michael Nanchoff put the USL side ahead, while an inch-perfect Haris Medunjanin free kick goal and a late Union push weren’t enough to even the score.

Union head coach Jim Curtin sent out a lineup with only one likely opening day starter, Andre Blake, who spent the whole match in goal. Those second stringers had trouble with a solid USL squad that made the Union pay repeatedly on the counterattack.

The Union had the first solid chance on goal in the 10th minute. Marcus Epps took advantage of space given to him to run at the defense on the left flank. With the defense backpedaling, Epps curled a shot just outside the far post.

Tampa Bay showed what kind of game this would be in the 17th minute, when Andre Blake was too nonchalant with a back pass from Richie Marquez. Tampa Bay attacker Jochen Graf closed on Blake and blocked his clearance dangerously close to the net.

Two minutes later, Graf’s movement proved fatal. A Tampa Bay takeaway in their own half went to defender Jack Blake, who sent a perfect pass upfield that Graf ran onto just inside Union center back Josh Yaro. Graf never broke stride and lofted his shot over the onrushing Andre Blake to bounce just inside the far right post for a 1-0 lead.

The Union got few opportunities before halftime, with a 33rd minute exchange illustrating why. A Union break toward goal looked dangerous, with Adam Najem making a great run behind the defense to collect the ball in space. As two Rowdies defenders recovered to close Najem down, he dropped a pass for Jay Simpson. Simpson could not get onto it in good shooting position, so he pulled the ball out and recirculated without a shot.

Tampa Bay’s second goal came on the counterattack in the 35th minute after an Epps turnover in center midfield. David Najem, the brother of the Union’s Najem, pushed forward in space behind the Union’s midfield. Richie Marquez drifted wide left to keep tabs on a runner, leaving Yaro to stop David Najem. The Rowdies’ Michael Nanchoff cut in from the left flank inside Ray Gaddis, and David Najem found him. Nanchoff put a left-footed shot past Andre Blake for a 2-0 lead.

Simpson and Yaro left the game at halftime, replaced by Cory Burke and Mark McKenzie.

Burke was part of a good Union chance in the 55th minute. Adam Najem pulled off a nice control, pivot and pass to find Epps cutting in behind a defender on the right. Epps put a hard shot on goal that was blocked, and an industrious Burke just missed getting a foot on the rebound before it was cleared.

Less than a minute later, Graf got behind Marquez on the break and forced a good Andre Blake save.

Soon after, a free kick from Herbers was blocked and fell to Mark McKenzie, who skied a sitter from four yards over the crossbar.

The Union brought in wholesale substitutions in the 59th minute, giving a likely preview of their opening day starting lineup. Most notably, it featured a back line of Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty and Eric Ayuk from right to left, with David Accam on the left wing and Fafa Picault on the right.

Philadelphia went on the front foot but didn’t make the game dangerous until late.

Andre Blake shut down another Rowdies counterattack in the 72nd minute, with a nice kick save on a Leo Fernandes shot after the former Union man got hold of a good through ball behind Rosenberry.

In the 74th, David Accam one-timed a right-footed shot just past the far post after a cross from Fafa Picault.

The Union finally scored in the 84th minute. Anthony Fontana won a foul to set up Medunjanin’s perfect free kick into the upper left corner that earned the Union’s lone goal.

Philadelphia got one more good chance in the 86th when Alejandro Bedoya put a blast on goal, but Rowdies goalkeeper Cody Mizell made a nice save to secure the win.

The match was the Union’s last of the preseason. Opening day is Saturday against New England.

Three points
  1. Yaro and Simpson subpar again: Yaro was at least partially at fault on both goals, nearly surrendered a third on a giveaway dangerously close to goal in the 32nd, and stood flat-footed as 5-10 Rowdies winger Junior Flemmings went over him to put a 41st minute header toward goal. Meanwhile, Simpson was as isolated as a lone striker as he typically is, providing few, if any, opportunities to the attacking midfielders. Cory Burke showed more in 15 minutes than Simpson did in 45 and has probably earned a leap frog of Simpson on the depth chart.
  2. Your opening day starting 11: Auston Trusty and Keegan Rosenberry appear to have won starting jobs — and Trusty was particularly steady — but the real intrigue was seeing Ayuk at left back. The right-footed winger played left back like an inverted wingback, as you would expect. Matt Real played fairly well at left back, so if Fabinho’s injury keeps him out, it’s not clear who would start in his place.
  3. Fontana/Najem: Fontana’s hustle led to him winning the foul that led to the Union’s lone goal. It was an unnecessary foul by the Rowdies and the only mark — albeit a good one — Fontana put on the game. Najem, on the other hand, looked very good in traffic and circulating the ball, despite getting nothing from a striker offering little movement off the ball. Fontana will start opening day, but Najem looked superior Saturday despite being surrounded by inferior teammates.

Tampa Bay

Cody Mizell; David Najem (Kyle Curinga 90′), Neill Collins (Hunter Gorskie 71′), Ivan Magalhães, Zac Portillos (Max Lachowecki 89′); Jack Blake (Lance Rozeboom 76′), Michael Nanchoff (Alex Morrell 80′); Junior Flemmings (Georgi Hristov 46′), Joe Cole (Martin Vingaard 62′), Sebastian Guenzatti; Jochen Graf (Leo Fernandes 68′)


Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis (Keegan Rosenberry ’59), Josh Yaro (Mark McKenzie ’46, Jack Elliott ’59), Richie Marquez (Auston Trusty ’59), Matt Real (Eric Ayuk ’59); Derrick Jones (Haris Medunjanin ’59), Warren Creavalle (Alejandro Bedoya ’59), Adam Najem (Anthony Fontana ’59), Fabian Herbers (Fafa Picault ’59), Marcus Epps (David Accam ’59); Jay Simpson (Cory Burke ’46, C.J. Sapong ’59)

Scoring summary

TB — Graf — ’19 (Jack Blake)

TB — Nanchoff — ’35 (David Najem)

PHI — Medunjanin — ’84


  1. Worth adding to the narrative that an individual fitting the general description of Borek Dockal was congratulating exiting Union players while sitting on the Union bench around the 60th minute when the mass exodus occurred. I noticed it live, and some one has put it on Twitter.
    I do not know how to reference a tweet, or how to cite it so others can find it, dinosaur that I am. There is an 8 second video of the individual sitting next to Richie Marquez on the Union bench last night shaking Matt Real’s hand as Matt is sitting down. I am guessing the original tweet is by @mikeholman, but I do not know.
    In my limited experience you do not actually sit on a team’s bench if you are not part of the team. I knew one school headmaster who would do so, but otherwise not, as a general rule.

  2. In reference to Ayuk as a left back, I saw that as a deep reserve getting minutes as a reserve at a roughly comparable position, in the manner of a Marcus Beasley or a Graham Zuni, or Roddie Rogers.
    It might be an interesting development or a one-off improvisation. Instinctively I liked the idea because of Ayuk’s tough aggressiveness, and he has only 18 fewer professional starts there than does Matt Real.

  3. I am Citzen Insane says:

    ‘in the next world war
    in a jack knifed juggernaut
    I am born again.’
    close in on the close up of Radio Raheem’s hands…
    on one fist there is love
    -the other hate.
    into the breach of a new season we go— again. just as
    uncertain if they will Do The Right Thing
    or remain in a ‘Deep Deep Sleep’.

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