The Tampa Bay Rowdies dropped their first pre-season match against Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union by a score of 1-0 on Saturday night, but there’s no need to worry just yet.
“It’s our first game and everything against a team that’s a couple of weeks ahead of us, I think they’ve already played a couple of games, so I thought the players equipped themselves well,” head coach Stuart Campbell said after the game. “It’s a great testament to our players, playing against an MLS team.”
Campbell started the match with 10 regular starters who fought even evenly matched first half against the MLS side. Rowdies had two scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes from defender Neil Collins and midfielder Leo Fernandes, but came up just short in the end.
The Philadelphia goal came from Derrick Jones in a 1-on-1 situation with the goal keeper late in the second half after Campbell made a slew of personnel changes on the field. Jones left the goalkeeper picking up his pants after working some fancy footwork round him to score the goal. The trialist keeper, who was subbed in the game for starting keeper Matt Pickens, got a healthy dose of the big leagues in a short amount of time on the field.
“When I made that many changes [in players] at the 60-minute mark, it disrupts the flow of the game a little bit. We were playing well and I was tempted to leave [everything as it was], but I’ve got to be sensible. We still have four or five weeks before our season,” Campbell said.
Bottom line is there’s no need to panic. We get it. It’s preseason. The 2008 Detroit Lions ended their preseason record undefeated with four wins, but went on to lose 16 straight in the regular season, completing one of the worst professional sports seasons in history. Let’s hope the Rowdies don’t follow in their footsteps.
While it was a warm-up game for the players, it was certainly a warm up for the fans, too. A lackluster crowd showed for the Saturday evening game. Presumably many were frightened off by wet weather, or just forgot the Rowdies are making a serious push for MLS and need as big of an attendance as they can get (ahem).
Several United States national team players took the field for Philadelphia, including Alejandro Bedoya, which should have been enough of a draw for a crowd, but the attendance remained at NASL levels when we need MLS numbers.
The ever-faithful Ralph’s Mob made themselves heard, but the stadium lacked the atmosphere needed to show the MLS that Tampa Bay is ready to join.
Fortunately, the show will go on, and the Rowdies will continue their preseason at Al Lang Stadium this Saturday and 7:30 against MLS’s Montreal Impact. The fans will have another chance to prove themselves while the boys on the field will have another chance to impress.
“You can see we’ll be a real threat moving forward,” Campbell said. “The more games we get, the more they’ll improve.”