A second-half goal from Derrick Jones was all the Philadelphia Union needed to open up their Rowdies Suncoast Invitational campaign with a win. 21 Union players took part in the 1-0 victory over the host Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Jones created the goal almost single-handedly, forcing a costly turnover from a Rowdy (a Rowdies player can be referred to as a Rowdy) in the midfield, then continuing up the field and dancing past goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.
In the 87th minute now, still 1-0 thanks to this beauty from Derrick Jones. #DOOP pic.twitter.com/GfLVYx0pWp— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) February 19, 2017
Union XI: Andre Blake; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Jack Elliott, Ray Gaddis; Derrick Jones, Haris Medunjanin; Marcus Epps, Alejandro Bedoya, Fabian Herbers; CJ Sapong
Though the first half was fairly messy as a whole, the Union did have a few pieces of really good play in the opening stages. The common denominator in all of them was Haris Medunjanin, the Bosnian midfielder who joined the club less than a month ago. Medunjanin’s quality was on display early, as he pulled off a few slick turns and sprayed the ball around the midfield with ease. His most impressive actions came in quick succession, as he hit inch-perfect 30-yard entry passes to Fabian Herbers and Marcus Epps within minutes of each other.
Alejandro Bedoya created the best chance of the half in the seventh minute, threading a ball to CJ Sapong from the top of the box. Though Sapong was one-on-one with the ‘keeper, his attempt wasn’t clean enough to give his team the lead.
Union XI: Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Ken Tribbett, Jack Elliott, Giliano Wijnaldum; Warren Creavalle, Jones (Brian Carroll 76’); Ilsinho, Adam Najem (Anthony Fontana 76’), Chris Pontius; Charlie Davies
The final 45 minutes were played at a bit of a slower pace, but the quality remained consistent with that of a preseason game. Still, the Union managed to create a few chances, including the one that would earn them the win.
In the 70th minute, Chris Pontius shook a defender loose at the top of the box before unleashing a driven shot on goal. While the power was there, the placement wasn’t, as Fitzgerald controlled the ball without much trouble.
Ten minutes later, 17-year-old Anthony Fontana created a similar chance for himself, but he too couldn’t beat Fitzgerald.
- Haris Medunjanin has taken no time at all to show that he’s the best player on this team. The midfielder won’t give the pedometer a workout, but he makes the ball do all the work for him. He’s reminiscent of former Union midfielder Vincent Nogueira, but he seems to be capable of making more of an impact in the final third. Though the Union have been using him as their most defensive midfielder, he’ll need a partner willing to track back lest the back line will be left exposed too often. Maurice Edu can be that partner, but he’s still working his way back to full health.
- Despite his goal, Derrick Jones had a rough outing. The young midfielder’s passing is still very unpolished, and his defensive impact isn’t great enough to compensate for it. Most of his challenges were clunky, and he was finally shown a yellow card a few minutes before his goal. Another full season in Bethlehem will do him a lot of good.
- Jack Elliott, the Union’s fourth-round pick from West Virginia University, showed well at center back. The tall Englishman was the only field player to play all 90 minutes on Saturday night, and he demonstrated a relatively impressive passing range for a defensive player. That, paired with his physical tools, make it likely that he’ll earn a roster spot with Bethlehem Steel.
- Anthony Fontana showed promise in his 15-minute shift, creating space for himself in the box on two occasions. The 17-year-old Academy player made eight appearances for Bethlehem last season.