It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The fans are a drinking, the balls are a curling, the strikers are score-ing, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. See what I did there? Perhaps I will leave the song writing to Andy Williams, but the U.S. Open Cup tournament is upon us.
In just two days, Miami FC will take the field embarking on their third Open Cup campaign. The nation’s oldest soccer tournament will be contested for the 105th time as play gets underway on Sunday. The three NASL exiles (Miami, Jacksonville, Cosmos) will enter the tournament in a play-in round akin to the NCAA basketball tournament. Three teams from the NPSL/PDL drew the short end of the stick, putting their open cup tournament lives on the line one round earlier than they expected.
For the opportunity to battle it out with Miami FC 2, Miami United and FC Miami City went to a coin flip. City would fall on lady luck’s bad side and a play-in round would be contested. For their troubles, they would be granted the right of first refusal on hosting, an option that City accepted. Little is known about FC Miami City’s roster as the club has yet to release its 2018 PDL roster.
Should City stay true to form, their roster will be comprised of some good talent from Europe and North Africa that has been passed on by major clubs. The 2017 roster featured 15 different players from outside of the United States, representing 8 different countries. Players with French heritage are a common fixture for City, with eight of their roster spots representing France.
It will be an uphill battle for City as they take on a squad with seasoned veterans from the highest levels of the American pyramid and in Europe. Miami FC 2 has yet to display their roster at full throttle despite playing three matches in the NPSL so far. The Blues (0-3-0), haven’t had the best start to their NPSL campaign, however, the club has subliminally implied their focus on the Open Cup.
Paul Dalglish will have the full roster at his disposal as he looks to earn a birth into the first round of the tournament. With Vincenzo Rennella and Ariel Martinez back from injury, along with the availability of Dylan Mares and Tyler Ruthven, the Blues should be all systems go for Sunday’s clash. Miami FC 2 will have extensive professional experience at each position on the pitch, something that City can’t claim.
The truth is, nobody knows what to expect from FC Miami City. With a roster yet to be named and a reliance on international players, the PDL roster and the Open Cup roster could be quite different. If the club stays true to its past, City will boast impressive speed and incredible fitness within it’s youth. On the other hand, that tactic could play right into the hands of Miami FC 2.
Miami FC has feasted on squads with little to no professional experience. Clubs that have tried to take the game to Miami FC have often found themselves on the wrong side of a dynamic counter attack. The biggest question City will have to answer is, can they hold their composure for 90 minutes against a club that is older and wiser? Will Miami FC 2’s most talented starting line-up gel together in time to avoid catastrophic mistakes?
I fully expect Miami FC to come out firing. Off the heels of three straight draws, Dalglish and company have a point to prove, and this is the perfect stage to send the message. If the talent on the Blues roster is not enough to best a club comprised of aspiring professionals, then we may as well close up shop on the idea of NPSL playoffs.
FC Miami City 2 – 4 Miami FC