Miami FC To Debut In USL Playoffs

Time to get excited. Miami FC finally take their place in the USL Championship playoffs. After a good showing in a really strong Atlantic division, Miami were handed a very tough opening match on the road against Louisville City FC.

It was exactly four years ago today that Miami played their last playoff game at Division 2 level. Despite being the #1 seed in the 2017 NASL playoffs things did not go according to plan. The green machine of New York Cosmos ground out a 0-0 draw at Riccardo Silva Stadium and took their place in the 2017 Soccer Bowl, winning 6-5 on penalties.

As many will remember, Miami FC were exiled to the NPSL (essentially Division 4) after the collapse of the NASL. There are fond playoff memories from these two years with back-to-back playoff national championship wins in 2018 and 2019. We did get some revenge against the Cosmos in the 2019 final. Following that there was also a brief stint in the NISA Showcase. We won that too.

So it’s been a winding road back to a playoff game at this level. How did we get here this season? Paul Dalglish has done a great job with his sweeping changes after a disappointing debut season in the USL last year. The brand of soccer has remained the same. A technical passing game which is fun to watch and sets up great opportunities for the attacking weapons in the final third of the pitch. We’ve seen some great goals.

The wholesale changes included a squad revamp and this is where the technical staff have really excelled with some fine recruitment work. From top to bottom this roster can compete for the championship. Connor Sparrow has been a revelation in goal. A true sweeper-keeper who the defenders have to confidence to use as an option for a pass when under pressure.

Regular center back pairing Paco Craig and Callum Chapman-Page have developed a great understanding. Captain Craig is a classy and experienced player who lifts everyone around him. It’s Callum’s second stint with the club after a year over in Tulsa in 2020. Callum has matured into a quality footballer and is an imposing figure at the back but has also managed to get among the goals. These two will need to be at the top of their game vs Louisville.

Paco is one of three players who will be returning to the Lou having previously played there. Another is Speedy Williams, a vital cog in midfield alongside Bolu Akinyode. These are another two players who are key elements of the Dalglishball system.

It’s going to be a night to remember for Rich Ballard. The third of the returnees to Louisville. Ballard was born and raised in the Lou. Played college soccer there and won back-to-back USL Cups alongside Craig and Williams. In fact Miami FC is the only non-Lou club Ballard has ever played for. Rich has been converted to an attacking full back and it’s tough to know who Dalglish will go for in this playoff game. Ballard and Sean McFarlane Jr are jostling for the start at right back. On the left Löbe and Baggio are options. Experienced Italian Luca Antonelli has also travelled with the squad. It’s a real headache for Paul. Who do you start?

We haven’t even talked about Othello Bah. He’s made an exceptional contribution this season playing in every position down the left, scoring four goals including vital strikes against the Rowdies and the Riverhounds. Bah is now 9th on the list of all-time appearances for Miami FC and even his national team took notice. Othello played for Liberia in a friendly.

Team selection doesn’t get any easier at the other end of the field. Club captain Ariel Martinez has a gift of talent a notch above most USL players. At the age of 35 he is still a stellar option for a start. So is the youngest player in the team Lamar Walker. The exciting Jamaican forward has progressed really well through 2021. Both these guys can operate in a central attacking role.

Nijah Reid, Pierre Da Silva, Billy Forbes and of course Christiano Francois could all play. Newcomers Josh Perez and Chris Cortez are available too. It’s a real treasure chest of attacking talent, fire in the box like matchsticks. If I was a LouCity defender I might have trouble sleeping tonight…

Though Louisville City will feel they are favorites. They have home advantage. The weather will be freezing. They won the Central Division and while it’s maybe not quite as tough a group as the Atlantic, LouCity were 4th overall in the USL regular season. They also knocked off Birmingham Legion 1-0 on the road in their last game. A result that cemented that top spot in the Central Division.

At the end of the day this is cup soccer and the result is tough to predict. If we circle back to that NASL playoff we know very well that a less-fancied team can come to a difficult environment and get a result. For fans of the club, the game is a deserved reward for sticking with the team through the NPSL exile and the forgettable 2020 season. Might we see penalties again? As much as that would be torture for all involved it may be the outcome.

What is a certainty is a great game of soccer. Both these teams started the season with hopes of an appearance in the final. One of them will be drowning their sorrows on Saturday night. Let’s hope it’s not the Orange and Blue. The USL Championship playoff encounter between Miami FC and Louisville City FC can be watched on ESPN+ in the US and free on YouTube around the world. Kick off is set for 8pm ET on Saturday, 6th of November. VAMOS MIAMI!

Previewing The Match: The Miami FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. The Miami FC

We’re in the endgame now. And The Miami FC, with their ticket to the playoffs already punched with a controversial 0-0 draw against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, are now fighting for a chance to host a playoff match at FIU Stadium in November. 

The path to the second seed, however, has narrowed. A stunning loss to Loudoun United a couple weeks ago may come back to haunt Miami FC (14-8-7, 49 pts). But they still have a slight chance to finish in second if they can finish the season strong and hope that Charlotte and Pittsburgh slip up in the home stretch. 

But first, the boys in Blue and Orange will need to find a way to defeat a familiar foe on the road: the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The two rivals will clash for the fourth and final time this season on Wednesday night at Al Lang Stadium. The boys in Blue and Orange will need to find a way to travel back down I-75 with three points in tow to keep those hopes alive. 

Previewing The Match: The Miami FC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds

As we enter the final month of the regular season, the playoff picture in the USL Championship’s Atlantic Division is beginning to crystallize. Miami FC–along with Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Charlotte–have separated themselves from the rest of the division. Now it’s simply a matter of positioning.

In many ways, Miami controls its own destiny. Miami FC (13-7-6, 45 pts) currently sits in third place, just three points behind the second-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds (with Miami still holding a game in hand). And they will host Pittsburgh twice at FIU Stadium in the next 14 days, including Saturday night’s match. 

A Miami victory would pull the Orange and Blue even with their Steel City rivals. And with the surging Charlotte Independence breathing down their necks, Miami can ill afford to let down their guard. 

Know Your Enemy: Pittsburgh Riverhounds

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds (14-7-6, 48 pts) have managed to maintain their spot behind the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the standings for most of the second half of the season. But their grip has started to loosen with Miami and Charlotte both challenging the Riverhounds for that pivotal second place position, which would ensure home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. 

Miami and Pittsburgh have met twice so far this season–both times at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh. Their first meeting ended in a 1-1 draw on June 12. When they clashed again on Aug. 11, Miami erased a two-goal deficit to earn a 3-2 victory on the road. 

Since the first tiebreaker in the USL Championship is based on head-to-head points earned in regular season, a Miami victory would give them the edge over Pittsburgh should the two teams finish with the same number of points at the end of the season.

Russell Cicerone and Hugh Alexander Dixon have been the go-to attackers for the Riverhounds all season. Cicerone has established himself as one of the league’s top goal scorers. He’s found the back of the net 14 times while adding seven assists to his name. Dixon, meanwhile, is right behind him with nine goals and also has seven assists.

And don’t forget about Kenardo Forbes. The Jamaican midfielder has six assists this season and loves to deliver dangerous crosses into the box (he is third in the league with 144 crosses). He can give opposing defenders headaches trying to contain him. 

Keys To A Miami Victory

Devon “Speedy” Williams, who will join the Jamaican national team for their upcoming World Cup qualifying matches, scored twice in Miami’s comeback victory. Meanwhile, former Riverhound Cristiano François has scored twice against Pittsburgh so far this season. Both players will be worth keeping an eye on Saturday night. 

Ariel Martinez has been a strong presence for Miami since returning from injury, earning a spot on the USL Championship’s Team of the Week after scoring a goal and tallying two assists in the club’s 6-1 rout over Loudoun United. Martinez now has five goals and a team-high seven assists this season. 

Miami managed to keep Cicerone and Dixon off the scoresheet last time around, but still found itself trailing during their last meeting. Goalkeeper Connor Sparrow has been in top form over the past few weeks, and he will need to stay sharp against one of the more well-balanced attacking teams in the league.  


After a tough midweek loss to Charlotte, Miami bounced back in a big way. They put up six goals against lowly Loudoun and enter the final month of the season with confidence. Miami also added some reinforcements to their lineup that give them the depth to make a deep playoff run. 

Pittsburgh has appeared vulnerable at times in recent months, and Miami should be able to take advantage of that in front of a home crowd. 

Miami FC 3 – Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1

Game Notes

WHO: Miami FC (13-7-6, 45 pts) vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (14-7-6, 48 pts)

WHEN: Saturday, October 2 // 7:30 pm EST

WHERE: FIU Stadium (Miami, FL)



  • Miami FC – None
  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds – Caution Accumulation Warning: Dani Rovira


The Miami FC v Charlotte Independence: Previewing The Match

If there’s one dark horse that could stir up trouble for Miami FC (12-6-6, 42 points) in the final month of the regular season, it’s the Charlotte Independence. While Miami is essentially a lock to clinch its first USL Championship playoff berth, they may have to watch their back lest Charlotte overtake them. 

The Independence are tightening their grip on the fourth and final playoff place in the Atlantic Division.  Riding a three-game winning streak, Charlotte has put a seven-point cushion between themselves and Charleston and Hartford. And a Charlotte victory Wednesday night would shrink the gap between the Independence and third-place Miami to a mere two points… with Charlotte still holding a match in hand.   

Know Your Enemy: Charlotte Independence

Since Miami fought back to earn a 2-2 draw at home against the Charlotte Independence (11-8-4, 37 pts) on Sept. 4, Charlotte has caught fire. The Independence haven’t allowed a goal since that match, outscoring their opponents 8-0 during their three-game win streak.

French midfielder Sylvain Marveaux has played a huge role in Charlotte’s incredible turnaround this season. Since joining the club in late June, the 35-year-old has tallied four goals and three assists. His Premier League and Ligue 1 experience has transferred well to the United States thus far.   

Meanwhile, forward Irvin Parra continues to wreak havoc on opposing defenses, leading the team with 12 goals so far this season. In Charlotte’s last outing, Parra scored the game-winner in the 81st minute in a 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Sept. 18.   

Goalkeeper Austin Pack appears to have won the trust of Head Coach Mike Jeffries and he’s earned three straight clean sheets, thanks in large part to a solid backline in front of him led by defender Christian Fuchs.  

Keys To A Miami Victory

Miami’s backline will have its hands full now that Charlotte has a plethora of weapons on the attack. Defender Paco Craig has been excellent all season long, and he made a potential game-saving clearance this past weekend against Charleston that may have single-handedly kept Miami’s unbeaten streak alive. 

Craig and the rest of the backline will need to keep the traffic away from goalkeeper Connor Sparrow if the club wants to keep that streak going. They will need to keep close tabs on Irvin Parra, who scored the 

Forward Ariel Martinez returned to action this past weekend after missing a handful of games with an injury and immediately made his impact help. Martinez provided the assisted on Lamar Walker’s goal and nearly scored the game-winner in the final minutes against Charleston, but his 88th minute shot went off the crossbar. Can Martinez, who has four goals this season, find the back of the net against Charlotte? 

Against a Charlotte team riding momentum, Miami may want to attack early and often to try to capture an early lead. After all, Miami is 9-2-0 when scoring first this season. Too often during this unbeaten streak, Miami has found themselves playing from behind and forced to settle for draws. 


Charlotte has put all the pieces together to make a splash over the final few weeks of the regular season. And Miami is catching them at just the wrong time. Having to travel to the Queen City in the middle of the week against one of the hottest teams in the league is a tough test for Miami. 

The fact that Charlotte is very tough to beat at home (7-1-4) does not bode well for the visitors. This could very well be the end of the road for Miami’s impressive nine-game unbeaten streak.  

Charlotte Independence 2 – Miami FC 1

Game Notes

WHO:  Miami FC (12-6-6, 42 points) vs. Charlotte Independence (11-8-4, 37 pts)

WHEN: Wednesday, September 22 // 7:00 pm EST

WHERE: American Legion Memorial Stadium (Charlotte, NC)



  • Miami FC – None
  • Charlotte Independence –  None

The Miami FC vs. Charlotte Independence: Previewing the Match

The Miami FC vs. Charlotte Independence

Once again Miami FC will be racking up the airmiles as a two-stop road trip takes them all the way to Memphis 901 FC but first up is a stop in North Carolina to take on Charlotte Independence on Saturday evening.

Miami (11-6-4, 37 pts) keep on rolling. Six games in August and they went unbeaten with four wins and two draws. Though some players will once again be missing due to international call ups that busy run showed that there is the quality in the squad to come in and keep the performances at the required levels.

The Independence played one game less than FC in August but still put together a creditable two wins, two draws and one loss. That L came against the Rowdies at Al Lang so there is no shame in that small slip up.

Know Your Enemy: Charlotte Independence

Good form is keeping Charlotte in the running for a playoff place. Miami, along with the Rowdies and Riverhounds, have daylight between them and fourth placed Charleston. Charlotte are not far behind the Battery though. Just one point adrift in sixth place equal on points with Hartford.

Up front Charlotte will be looking to Dane Kelly and Irvin Parra to solve the solid Miami backline. Jamaican Kelly has bagged seven goals this season but don’t count out the quality of Parra either. Another player to watch is Uruguayan midfielder Enzo Martinez. Enzo is a leader on the team and is always up for the battle with Miami.

Miami and Charlotte have similar defensive records. Keeper Austin Pack has proved to be a safe pair of hands since taking over duties between the sticks after an injury to starting GK Brandon Miller. Hugh Roberts is always a force to be reckoned with at center back and the Independence also boast a Premier League winner in defense. Former Leicester City player Christian Fuchs having signed on recently.

Keys To A Miami FC Victory

Miami will have to make do without Lamar Walker and Speedy Williams who are off on duty with Jamaica. New signing Joshua Perez is also away with El Salvador. That means a possible start for youngster Jahshaun Anglin.

The formidable defensive partnership of Paco Craig and Callum Chapman-Page is now on 270 minutes without conceding a goal, three clean sheets in the last three games. If they can keep that up then it could be a long night for the Charlotte attack.

Just two players have scored Miami’s last five goals. Lamar Walker getting two and Billy Forbes three. Walker won’t be playing but Christiano Francois will be looking to get back among the goals. It won’t be easy for the forwards in this game but the quality is clearly there to get a goal or two.


Miami FC have never lost to Charlotte Independence and it’s hard to see that changing tomorrow. Home field advantage might have Charlotte feeling they can get a point at least from this game. But it’s a big ask to halt the Miami juggernaut right now. One goal might settle this. 

Charlotte Independence 1 – The Miami FC 2

Game Notes

WHO: Charlotte Independence (8-8-3, 27 pts) vs. The Miami FC (11-6-4, 37 points)

WHEN: Saturday, September 4 || 7:00 pm EST

WHERE: American Legion Memorial Stadium (Charlotte, NC)

WATCH: ESPN+ in the US, YouTube Internationally

The Miami FC vs. New York Red Bulls II: Previewing the Match

The Miami FC hosts New York Red Bulls II on Sunday night.

As the end of summer draws near, Miami FC will try to stay hot as they host the New York Red Bulls II at FIU Stadium on Sunday night. 

Miami (10-6-4, 34 pts) has to be feeling great about where they stand heading into the final two months of the season. After a rocky start to the season, the Blue and Orange have earned at least a point in 10 of their past 11 matches dating back to June 26. That impressive stretch has given Miami FC a legitimate shot at competing for the Atlantic Division crown along with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. 

NYRBII, on the other hand, has headed in the opposite direction. The wheels have come off for the Baby Bulls, who have lost five straight matches heading into Sunday’s match.