The Black-and-Red face a fellow MLS side for the first time of 2018 on Saturday, Feb. 17, when they take on the Philadelphia Union at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. ET, fans can stream the match live here. The friendly is United's first of two matches in the Tampa Bay Rowdies Suncoast Invitational.
After making additional roster moves since their first preseason camp in Clearwater, Fla., United return to the Sunshine State with a more finalized roster and more training time under their belt. While the first preseason friendly against Malmö FF was an opportunity to give playing time across the board, the Black-and-Red coaching staff will begin focusing on finding the best-performing lineups and formations as they push closer toward their first regular season match on March 3.
Since their last preseason friendly, United acquired midfielder Yamil Asad and signed defender Chris Odoi-Atsem. Odoi-Atsem appeared in nine games for the Black-and-Red in 2017 and played against Malmö FF as a trialist, but Saturday could be Asad's first time taking the pitch for competition with his new squad. The Argentine was a standout with Atlanta United last season, netting seven goals and adding 13 assists, and should immediately raise the level of play in the Black-and-Red midfield.
With the coaching staff also working recent acquisitions Júnior Moreno and Ulises Segura into the midfield—as well as Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse, and Zoltán Stieber, who are participating in their first preseason with United—Saturday will be a prime opportunity to continue building chemistry between the team's new attacking assets.
The Union may also be sporting new faces in the midfield, most significantly David Accam. Philadelphia acquired the 27-year-old from the Chicago Fire in exchange for a total of $1.2 million in allocation money on Jan. 19, 2018, and the Ghanian is expected to be a major impact player for Philadelphia. In Chicago, Accam scored 33 goals and tallied 15 assists over three seasons.
United play their second Suncoast Invitational match on Wednesday, Feb. 21, against the Jacksonville Armada. As the 2018 season gets closer and closer, the Black-and-Red will be focused on identifying cohesive lineups and the strongest starting corps during their remaining friendlies.