Last week the Miami FC 2 managed to do something they couldn’t last year, win a playoff. Unlike the NASL, the NPSL has a “three-round” playoff system. After a team makes it out of their conference playoffs, they enter the regional stage, then move on to the national final four. During the playoffs each round is a one-legged fixture hosted by the team that earned a higher points per game tally during the regular season. Miami’s stellar regular season forces the Atlanta Silverbacks to come to town.
It’s amazing to think that Miami finds themselves in another playoff match against a club that has its roots in the North American Soccer League. The Atlanta Silverbacks played in the second division until 2015, the year before Miami FC took the field. When digging through the all-time roster, a few familiar names come up. Jaime Chavez used to wear a Silverbacks shirt alongside, Atlanta-area native, Tyler Ruthven. Kwadwo Poku was discovered by Eric Wynalda during his time with the Silverbacks as well. In each of the past three seasons in the NPSL, the club has finished second in their conference and qualified for the US Open Cup.
To get here, Atlanta had to go at it the hard way by defeating Asheville City and then taking on the Southeast Conference top seed Chattanooga FC. The perennial powerhouse gave Atlanta all they could handle and then some. Excellent defensive play and some marvelous saves by both clubs took the game scoreless into penalty kicks. During penalties, the Chattanooga goalkeeper came off his line early on at least three separate occasions making two saves. On each of the saves, the referee mandated a re-kick allowing Atlanta to get past Chattanooga without a single miss.
While both clubs come into this game on two days rest, Miami avoid the long commute. While the turnover is quick, Paul Dalglish and company won’t be marred by sitting in a vehicle for an excessive period of time. After throttling the Armada in the Sunshine Conference Championship, Miami’s biggest test may perhaps be behind them until the national playoffs. Miami FC 2 will certainly welcome the return of Jaime Chavez into the mix as the three headed attacking monster of Chavez, Kris Tyrpak, and Dario Suarez will re-unite against this amateur side.
Keys To A Miami FC 2 Victory:
As previously mentioned, Miami’s toughest test in terms of talent may have just passed them. There are no teams remaining in the regional stage of the tournament that boast the professional experience and talent of this Magic City squad. If the match were to be played on paper, undoubtedly the Blues would run amuck their competition, but, time and time again this season we’ve seen Miami get frustrated by amateur side and their tactics.
Miami has struggled to breakdown sides that have played five defenders across the back, something Atlanta has never done. Changing tactics for a match as big as this one usually results in a team losing its way. While Atlanta’s 4-2-2-2 formation poses some challenges, Miami’s ability to play out wide will wreak havoc on this type of formation. The 4-2-2-2 can clog the middle of the pitch and force teams out wide. That can work great against sides who don’t have the pace and crossing ability of this Miami side.
Jaime Chavez will need to be a nightmare in tonight’s contest for Miami to advance comfortably. With Tyrpak and Suarez causing chaos on the wings, Chavez’ finishing ability will be in the spotlight. Expect Tyler Polak and Sean McFarlane to play their respective wingers into dangerous areas freeing up space for Martinez and Mares to go unmarked near the top of the penalty area.
The short recovery time for an amateur side that went through a grinding 120 minutes will be on display tonight. Having to endure a ten-hour travel period on tired legs won’t bode well for the Silverbacks. While Atlanta is no stranger to the heat, humidity is another beast. Expect Miami to take the lead into the half, but if the Blues score a goal in the first ten minutes of the match, the route will be on.
Miami FC 3 – 1 Atlanta Silverbacks
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