Tampa Bay is one of the best teams in the USL Championship, but Philadelphia Union II refused to back down, though they fell 2-0 in the end.
Brandan Craig returned as captain, paired with Ben Ofeimu in back, while Paxten Aaronson moved into a striker role alongside Patrick Bohui.
The Rowdies were on top early as a crossfield ball caught out Anthony Sorensen and Sebanstian Guenzatti slipped into the center to tap home the opener.
Union II were pinned deep but pressed energetically, keeping the Rowdies from clean looks at goal. Craig cleared one shot off the line and Mitchell Budler pawed another good effort away, and the visitors began to grow in confidence. Jack McGlynn’s passing range and Paxten Aaronson’s movement were a dynamic combination. Aaronson received one long, cross-field pass on the right, jinked onto his left foot and pinged the bar from 22 yards deep. Tampa’s Yann Ekra then doubled the home side’s lead when his shot from the left slipped through Budler’s hands and into the net.
Craig unleashed a stunning long pass through the middle that Bohui coolly flicked into Danny Flores’ path. The midfielder uncorked a shot from 20 yards out that spun agonizingly wide of the goal.
Chastened, Tampa Bay was less sure of themselves in the second half and neither side was able to dominate play. Aaronson and McGlynn were creative but, ultimately, struggled to create real danger. Still, holding their own against such an experienced squad was an impressive feat for this young Union II team, and they proved that fearlessness will be a hallmark of the Marlon LeBlanc era.
Union II returns to action on September 9 when they travel to face New York Red Bulls II at 5:00 p.m. ET, available to strea on ESPN+.