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Rowdies fall 1-0 on Union’s late goal in exhibition opener

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The Tampa Bay Rowdies started play in their Suncoast Invitational – part of their preseason – in good fashion Saturday night.

The Rowdies lost, 1-0, to the Philadelphia Union of the MLS. The Union scored its only goal after coach Stuart Campbell pulled many of his starters, leaving the team exposed for a breakaway goal by Derrick Jones in the 73rd minute.

Tampa Bay came within inches of tying the score in the 90th minute when Alex Morrell got a shot on goal, but keeper Andre Blake saved the shot just before time ran out.

“We played very well,” Campbell said. “After the first half, I was pretty happy. I thought it was a pretty even game. It’s a great testament to our players playing against an MLS team. The second half was pretty even as well, until that crazy goal.”

The Rowdies are in their first season of USL play, but in the Suncoast Invitational, the competition is against teams from the MLS, a league the Rowdies intend to join.

The Union starts its season in two weeks, so it is ahead of the Rowdies. But Campbell saw promise in the defeat.

“I liked quite a lot,” Campbell said. “It was our first game against a team that’s a couple of weeks ahead of us. I think they’ve played a couple of games already. I thought the more games we get, the more they’ll improve. We’ll develop relationships. We’ll be a threat going forward. With the speed we have out wide, it’s going to cause problems.

“I’d be more happy if we got the result, which we should have done.”

The Rowdies pulled Joe Cole at the 57-minute mark and pulled five other players in the 63rd. That led to a breakaway by Jones, who beat goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.

Tampa Bay plays another game in the Suncoast Invitational when it faces Montreal Saturday night.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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