The Miami FC v Hartford Athletic: Previewing The Match

It’s hard to imagine the first 14 minutes of Miami FC’s season opener against visiting Loudoun United going any better. 

Six minutes into the match, Ariel Martinez delivered a beautiful cross to newcomer Gigi Craig, who expertly headed the ball into the back of the net. A minute later, a defensive mishap from Loudoun United (and some pressure from forward Pierre da Silva) led to an own goal. And just like that, the Orange and Blue had a 2-0 lead. 

The Miami FC vs. Loudoun United: Previewing The Match

The Miami FC opens its season against Loudon United on Saturday. Photographic by Matthew Bunch.

 After a disappointing 2020 season, no one can blame The Miami FC for wanting to put last year behind them as quickly as possible.

Miami has a chance to do that Sunday night when they kick off their 2021 campaign against Loudoun United. It will be the first meeting between the two teams. They will get to see each other three more times later this season as Atlantic Division rivals.

Ariel Martinez: Back For Good

Ariel Martinez with Sean McFarlane who also returns to the club for 2021.

 

Looking back now it felt like the start of 2020 was a mad blur. And that was especially the case for fans of The Miami FC. After romping to great success in the startup NISA showcase at the end of 2019 the first bombshell dropped. Moving to the USL by acquiring the dead man’s boots of Ottawa Fury was a big surprise. Then the pandemic took hold and ruined everything for all of us. A lot of upheaval on and off the pitch. It’s fair to say it was a tough year for MFC. One that started out with dreams of USL playoffs turned into a rude awakening of battling Atlanta United’s bomb squad for 3rd place in a group of four. Rocked by the Rowdies, bullied by the Battery. Tough to watch.

The whole year it felt that something was missing.

Players come and go at soccer clubs and it’s hard to watch some players leave. FC Tulsa snatched away a core of fan favorites in 2020. The lethal forward Dario Suarez, no-nonsense center back Callum Chapman-Page, and probably one of the most popular players ever to pull on the orange and blue Ariel Martinez.

Inter Miami CF kicks off MLS season with home opener against LA Galaxy

Inter Miami CF hosts LA Galaxy. Photographic by Matthew Bunch.

A home opener against LA Galaxy. Great anticipation for a new season with promise, potential, and so many unknowns. It’s the launch of the 2021 Inter Miami CF capmaign in Major League Soccer, but it offers a sense of deja vu: We were in this place exactly one year and six weeks ago, when Inter Miami lost at DC United, headed home for its inaugural home match, and then the world stopped.

Inter Miami never did host LA Galaxy in its 2020 season, or play the Galaxy at all. COVID restrictions and a regionalized schedule update forced a lot of changes on a club that still has no true sense of normalcy.

But today’s match will really give the club a chance to change that for the first time.

Adrestia FC, Florida Fusion Into The UPSL Playoffs

photo courtesy: Adrestia FC/Kevin Carrion

An impressive 3-0 win on Saturday evening at Doral Meadow Park confirmed Adrestia FC’s place into the UPSL Florida South Playoffs.

With the regular season nearing completion the familiar name of Miami United tops the Florida South D1 table. Eight of the nine teams qualify for the post season tournament but the win for Adrestia confirmed their place as Miami Sun were beaten 3-2 in a match later that evening vs City Soccer FC. That result also meant that despite losing, Florida Fusion will also make it into the championship tournament.

A pleasant evening’s weather and the nice surroundings of Meadow Park combined to make perfect conditions for an entertaining and engaging contest. A small but safely socially distant crowd was treated to some great soccer and a game that was a bit closer than the 3-0 scoreline suggests. Adrestia look the lead early in the game thanks to a confident penalty scored by David Mizrahi. The early goal raised a response from Fusion who had their chances, particularly down the right hand side where Nahim Fernandez looked lively. Center forward Victor Belandria was also a threat and despite a few good crosses Fusion couldn’t create a clear chance for their #9.

Adrestia doubled their lead at the end of the first half. A well taken goal by Michael Lawrence who latched on to a loose ball and finished calmly after the Fusion keeper got caught in no man’s land. There was no shortage of chances and the two goalkeepers were kept busy in an open and attacking game. Fusion came flying out of the blocks in the second 45 and despite piling the pressure on could not solve the Adrestia defense. Center back Sime Ludner had a great game for Adrestia and played an important part in the clean sheet for his team.

The third goal came near the end of the game. The Fusion defense looking for offside from a free kick but Cameron McDonald had perfect timing to finish from point blank range. Fusion will have been disappointed to concede from a penalty and two lapses in concentration but they can hold their heads high for their attacking approach, they never gave up on the game. Adrestia face table-topping Miami United in their final regular season game next weekend. Florida Fusion have games against Soccer Soldiers and Port St. Lucie United.

Classy FC Brush Aside Atlanta United 2

Miami FC turned in a dominant performance on Sunday evening sending Atlanta United 2 home empty handed. The Orange and Blue signed off for 2020 with a flourish, an emphatic 3-1 win.

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Following the goal fest on Wednesday where FC bested Charleston Battery 4-3 it was clear to see confidence had returned to the Miami camp. It’s been a commodity sorely lacking this season. Much is made in soccer these days of stats, systems, tactics and so on. But footballers thrive when they play with a smile on their face. Too often this season there have been furrowed brows and long faces in Miami FC jerseys. Not last night.

Even when the predictable happened and ATLUTD2 scored an early goal it didn’t seem to rattle the home team. Ndam was beaten to a long ball by Jackson Conway who finished well, Pais no chance. This has been familiar territory for Miami this season but instead of slouching shoulders and heads dropping, the players were encouraging each other and stuck to their game plan.

Mark Pais averted disaster again minutes after the goal. Dealing well with Amir Bashti when the Atlanta #10 had a great chance to double the lead in a one-on-one. Although both sides were out of playoff contention a long time ago there was something to play for in this game. Atlanta knew a win or draw would give them 3rd place in USL Championship Group H. Miami needed all three points.

So with the motivation of that third place spot it was no surprise that the game was physically competitive. Over the course of the game referee Alex Billeter dished out eight yellow cards. On the half hour mark she awarded Miami a penalty. Prince Saydee tore into the area and was brought down by ATLUTD2 keeper Ben Lungaard. It was a tough decision for the ref. Lundgaard got a little of the ball but also sent Prince flying. There was enough there to give the penalty. Romario Williams made no mistake and fired in an excellent penalty kick to level things up.

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From that point Miami controlled the majority of game with their signature brand of soccer. Bezecourt and Velasquez ran the show. Their styles contrast slightly. Bezecourt never stops running and drives the game forward whenever he gets the opportunity. Velasquez drifts around, demanding possession then toying with his opponents. The ball seemingly on a string attached to his foot. Often he would open up space with a trademark dribble for his team mates to run into. Both are given the freedom to operate by the reliable partnership of Harrison Heath and Tomi Granitto behind them.

Atlanta were limited to counter attacks, set pieces and crosses from out wide. They had no answer for Miami’s midfield. Five minutes into the second half Miami took the lead. Prince Saydee collected the ball from Granitto and went on a mazy solo run which he finished off in style. Prince’s exciting wing play has been a highlight of the season and if he can find this kind of end product consistently, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in 2021.

Pais added another heroic save to keep his team ahead. Just getting a fingertip to a point blank header by Bashti. Harrison Heath brushed the woodwork with a nice curling effort. It felt like there might be one more goal in the game. Thiaw and Gonzalez entered the game for Williams and Prince. Fresh legs for the last twenty minutes. Thiaw had a chance for Miami’s third when another penalty was awarded for a seemingly tame push in the area. Thiaw sent his kick down the middle and Lundgaard got a foot to it to keep it out.

Miami’s third goal came in stoppage time. Velasquez capping his performance with a well taken goal that he both started off and finished. A lovely little move involving both the substitutes Thiaw and Gonzalez. The whistle went and Miami FC head into the winter with some positives to work on after a difficult season. It’s taken some time but it looks like Miami FC are getting to grips with the USL. If the team can replicate the form of the last two games week in week out they can be a force to be reckoned with in 2021. They just need to come out of the gates next time with the swagger they’ve found over the last week.

Miami Resurrection

Miami FC turned the tables on Charleston Battery Wednesday evening. A four goal blitz in the second half gave the Orange and Blue a 4-3 win few would have seen coming before kick off.

The match did start with a similar script to most of Miami FC’s season. They struggled to compete with the visitors initially. Perhaps Charleston were enjoying the benefit of their rest at the weekend following the cancellation of their game vs Loudoun United. Barely ten minutes had gone when Miami were caught flat-footed and Nicque Daley turned in a loose ball in the six-yard box for Battery’s first.

Miami FC keeper Mark Pais once again came to his team’s rescue. Bravely denying Daley in a one-on-one that kept the deficit at one goal. It would be a missed chance that proved costly for Nicque and the Battery by the end of the evening. Daley should have had a hat trick. He scored his second when Hassan Ndam allowed him to wriggle free on the right. The Jamaican powered towards the Miami FC goal and made no mistake with the finish. Half time, the score two-nil.

It’s been a difficult season for Miami FC fans but those who stuck with this game were about to be rewarded for their patience. Indeed anyone who was watching the match can’t have complained about the entertainment value of the second half.

With their first meaningful attack of the game Miami got one back. Prince Saydee collected a ball from Marco Franco. He drifted by a Charleston defender and sent a cross low across the area. It didn’t look particularly dangerous. But Velasquez cleverly dummied the ball for the lurking Romario Williams who buried a simple finish from close range. For once, it was Miami’s opponents who were guilty of ball-watching.

Straight away Charleston replied. Robbie Crawford skillfully restoring the Battery’s cushion. That goal knocked Miami off balance for a few minutes but Charleston couldn’t take advantage. Step forward Sebastian Velasquez.

The skillful Colombian #10 has been a wonderful addition to the squad and he can change a game single handed. He’s been unlucky with injuries this season but last night showed everyone what he is capable of. Miami got on the scoresheet again when Velasquez sent in a perfect corner to the back post. Vincent Bezecourt was totally unmarked and was left with an easy header to score his first goal for the club.

Velasquez then put the ball in the net himself. Scoring a fantastic goal, dribbling expertly into the area and finishing from a difficult angle. Again Charleston almost came straight back, substitute Arthur Bosua heading against the bar after a swift Battery counter attack.

When Bezecourt missed an open goal that would have put Miami ahead it increasingly looked like the game would end 3-3. One last twist in the tale. Miguel Gonzalez adding another important goal to his resume with a couple of minutes left in the 90. It wasn’t the prettiest goal. Battery keeper Kuzminsky couldn’t keep his hands on a stinging effort by Prince, who had another great night on the wing. Gonzalez got to the rebound first. His shot was nothing special but caught Kuzminsky off-guard. The Battery defense reacted too slowly and the ball just crossed the line before being cleared. The goal would stand, 4-3 Miami.

That’s how it would finish. The smallest possible margin of victory, a goal that was mere inches over the line. But Miami will take it. A gutting result for Charleston who had control of the group in their hands and threw it away. The last time the Battery let in more than three goals was over a year ago when they got thumped 5-0 by the Rowdies at home.

The second half display was what many expected from Miami FC all season. Now they’ve proved they are capable of it the question is how do they do it on a consistent basis? Signing off with back-to-back wins would be a small victory for the team. One game remains against Atlanta United 2 on Sunday 4th October, kick off 7:30pm, live on ESPN+.

Rowdies Raid Sinks Miami FC On A Stormy Night

Miami FC fell to a third defeat at the hands of Tampa Bay Rowdies this season on Saturday evening. After a long weather delay at Riccardo Silva Stadium the visitors left with all three points after a 1-0 win.

Othello Bah made a return to the lineup at left back. Marco Franco and Sebastian Velasquez were also handed starts with Brian James and Janos Löbe rested. Goalkeeper Mark Pais picked up where he left off after his wonderful performance to claim a clean sheet in the last game. Two big saves early on kept the scores level.

Rowdies defender Jordan Scarlett went into the book in the first fifteen minutes following a reckless challenge on Vincent Bezecourt. The easiest yellow card referee Natalie Simon will ever give in her career and another ref, another day, he could have been off. Bezecourt and Velasquez have been marked men all season so it’s something they’ve learned to deal with. The classy Frenchman picked himself up and turned in another great performance.

FC came closest to opening the scoring when Bezecourt and Thiaw combined to set up Granitto. Granitto spurned the chance at the edge of the six-yard box, sending a snap shot wide. It wasn’t an easy finish though, the ball came at him quickly.

The Rowdies got their goal and again it came thanks to poor defending by Miami FC at a corner. The ball was swung over, Scarlett lost his marker at the back post and headed it across for Sebastian Guenzatti to finish off. Bezecourt had a chance to equalize right after, firing a decent effort just over the bar.

Tampa Bay could have got the killer second goal. Kyle Murphy wasted a chance just before half time and Leonardo Fernandes had a powerful effort blocked by a brave Tomi Granitto at the start of the second half. They did have the ball in the net after a nice move in the 53rd minute, the assistant referee’s flag coming to Miami’s rescue. A very close offside call. Miami went looking for an equalizer bringing Romario Williams on at the hour mark. The Rowdies defense is so strong there was just no way through. Repeated attempts to pick the lock Tampa Bay had on their goal came to nothing. Another deserved clean sheet for the visitors. 

The match ended 1-0. Another battling Miami FC performance undone by a defensive mistake. More worrying is that Miami have now gone 400 minutes of soccer without scoring a goal. They have to play Charleston Battery next who are just as good at the back as the Rowdies. Battery also have the advantage of having a weekend off, their game with Loudoun United was cancelled due to Loudoun’s multiple cases of Covid-19.

Miami FC vs Charleston Battery kicks off at 7:30pm on Wednesday 30th September. Watch live on ESPN+.