The Rowdies won 3-0 over the University of Tampa in the annual FitzFest match that also marked the end of the club’s preseason slate. Following a successful training tour of England, the Rowdies split their lineups in the first and second halves to get as many guys playing time as possible as they fine tune their plans for the April 2nd home and season opener vs. Indy Eleven. The goals were scored by Freddy Adu, from a free kick that has been making the rounds on social media, Michael Nanchoff, and Tommy Heinemann. Heinemann also assisted on Nanchoff’s goal, while Georgi Hristov assisted Heinemann.

The match, played at UT’s Pepin Stadium, was part of an annual event honoring former USF & Rowdies player Tom Fitzgerald, who also coached the Columbus Crew and Spartans before passing away in 2004. Proceeds from ticket sales and donations go to benefit the Tom Fitzgerald Scholarship Fund.

Tampa Bay started out in a 4-3-3, with Michael Langer in goal, Jeremy Hall, Frankie Sanfilippo, Stefan Antonijevic, and Ben Sweat on the backline. Junior Burgos, Kalif Alhassan, and Justin Chavez manned the midfield while Freddy Adu, Danny Mwanga, and Darwin Espinal started as forwards.

As expected, the Rowdies dominated possession throughout, resulting in long stretches where Langer had little to do, but when called on, later in each half, he delivered. Despite threatening early and often, the Rowdies stayed off the scoreboard until the 20th minute, when Freddy Adu delivered a free kick into the far top corner of the Spartan’s net.

After the intermission, Tampa Bay made seven substitutions: Darnell King for Hall and Zac Portillos for Sweat at the back, Michael Nanchoff for Burgos, Georgi Hristov for Alhassan, and Juan Guerra for Chavez in the midfield, while Eric Avila replaced Adu and Tommy Heinemann for Mwanga. Sanfilippo later went off for Walter Ramirez in the 58th minute in an abundance of caution about what looked to be a hamstring issue. Following the substitution, Zac Portillos shifted over to centerback while Ramirez slotted in as left back.

The second half was just two minutes old when Michael Nanchoff made the score 2-0 and the Rowdies continued to dominate, with Heinemann closing the scoring in the 81st minute.

Other notes: former player and GM Farrukh Quraishi was in attendance last night. Keith Savage took in the game from the stands and did not dress for the match. New signing Neil Collins remained in England when the club returned to the US while final visa paperwork is being completed but will arrive soon. Despite the way it looked from the stands, neither Sanfilippo or Espinal were banged up last night.

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