How many teams get a chance to continue their fantastic cup run after securing a playoff spot in their league? That answer has to be few to none (I know, I know European leagues don’t do playoffs). Miami’s unbeaten run of 14 games ended on the 4th of July to North Carolina FC in a game that lacked the proverbial fireworks that Miami put on Saturday against the San Francisco Deltas. If anything, it’s clear this team doesn’t appreciate getting hit in the mouth. On the heels of the 1-0 loss, Miami came home and obliterated the Deltas 7-0.
Miami FC can continue their historic cup run tonight against an opponent in their same weight class. If the Blues have played a ton of games in recent memory, FC Cincinnati has played even more. This will be their third match in six days ― having previously visited Tampa and returned home to face Richmond. Cincinnati is a team that resembles Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Boasting a 6-6-6 record in United Soccer League play and sitting in sixth place in the USL East, FCC hasn’t produced many points away from the friendly confines of Nippert Stadium. How opposite have these performances been? 5 points in 8 games away from home.
As we discussed with Bryan Weigel earlier this week, this team is nursing injuries, pushing through a heavy schedule and attempting to stay in the USL playoff race. Their cup form has been very similar to our own, with the added benefit of not having to travel. The kicker is they have yet to concede a goal in U.S. Open Cup competition! It shows what home cooking can do for a team.
Miami will be looking to bring that statistic to an end Wednesday night at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Being able to provide extra rest on Saturday to Kwadwo Poku, Vincenzo Rennella, and Richie Ryan will prove critical when playing a team that is willing to absorb a ton of pressure. FCC will try and clog all of the passing lanes while playing 10 men behind the ball. This is a team that kept the Chicago Fire off the score sheet for 120 minutes!
Miami will have to be patient and choose carefully when to send bodies forward. We’ve seen the best teams in the world lose to opponents who park the bus early and finish their only chance on goal. The Blues surely will have their eye on FCC striker Djiby Fall and prepare for a quick counterattack hoping to catch Miami’s backline asleep.
The keys to Miami’s victory lie within the midfield’s ability to get balls into Poku, Stefano Pinho, and Rennella. Their ability to finish even the toughest of chances in the worst of angles will add pressure to the back three that FCC typically employs. If FCC attempts to man mark the PPR highway, it could be a long night for Mitch Hildebrandt & company. One or two early goals and you can seal Miami’s entrance into the semifinals of the cup.
Score prediction: Miami FC 3 – FC Cincinnati 1