Rowdies coach Paul Dalglish saw Tuesday's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup first-round match against Dallas Legends FC as an opportunity for some of his younger players to show him they deserved more playing time in league play.
And if Kwame "J.J." Adjeman-Pamboe's performance in Tampa Bay's 3-0 win over Legends was any indication, he did his part to earn more minutes once the Rowdies resume USSF Division 2 games on Saturday in Puerto Rico.
Adjeman-Pamboe scored a goal and assisted on the other two, helping Tampa Bay advance to the tournament's second round in its first Open Cup appearance.
"He was very good tonight," Dalglish said.
The Rowdies face league rival Miami FC in next week's second round at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday. Miami defeated the Central Florida Kraze 5-1.
The Rowdies struck early on Northeast High grad Chad Burt's goal in the second minute. Adjeman-Pamboe then scored on a breakaway in the 38th minute, giving Tampa Bay a 2-0 halftime lead. Forward Aaron King then converted a cross from Adjeman-Pamboe in the 85th minute for the game's final goal.
The Rowdies pressured Legends, an adult amateur team, throughout the match. Jesuit grad Joe Donoho nearly had two scores, one on a header off a free kick that was called back on a pushing foul in the 20th minute and another shot that hit off the post in the 79th minute.
"We're always looking for ways to improve," Dalglish said. "We missed quite a few chances and we had a couple goals called back, so we're looking to be a little more ruthless. The pleasing thing is how many chances we created."
The U.S. Open Cup, played since 1914, is a single-elimination tournament open to the top five tiers of the U.S. Soccer Federation - from adult amateur clubs to MLS. Eight qualifying MLS teams enter the field in the third round. The winner clinches a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.