United continued their preseason action Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium, defeating the NASL side, Tampa Bay Rowdies. This was the first of three matches in the inaugural Suncoast Invitational preseason tournament.
United came out fast-paced and aggressive, dominating much of the possession early on, creating chances and maintaining a high line defensively. That press would prove fortunate in the 28th minute as Luciano Acosta forced a Rowdies turnover on their end-line, quickly cut towards the box and found Fabián Espíndola who finished back post for the 1-0 lead. Even though it was their first match together the Argentinian/Boca Juniors connection clicked quickly.
United continued to manage the pace of the game thanks to effective play from Paul Clowes and Nick DeLeon in the midfield, who seemed to develop some chemistry as the game progressed. The defense was strong as a unit as well, not allowing a shot on goal from the Rowdies in the first half and distributing the ball up the flanks early and often. Patrick Nyarko looked confident on the right side, threatening down the wing and cutting inside, creating trouble for the Rowdies' defense.
The second half started with a similar lineup, Collin Martin replaced Acosta, GK trialist Benjamin Kirsten came in for Andrew Dykstra and a United academy player for Steve Birnbaum. The Rowdies made wholesale changes, subbing in a whole new 11 for the second half.
While line-ups shifted, so did the tempo of the match. The Rowdies were able to find more space in the final third late in the match. In the 81st minute Rowdies striker Tom Heinemann found himself 1-on-1 at the top of the box with Kirsten who was able to slow down the shot and force a clearance off the line by United trialist Paul Torres. Ultimately United was able to hold on to the early lead and finish off the Rowdies 1-0.
With another preseason match on Wednesday against the Philladelphia Union, United will have to balance between finding the starting XI and giving some players a last chance to prove themselves. A live stream of Wednesday's match will be available; kickoff is at 4pm ET.