A strong argument can be made that Miami’s upset victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday was the club’s biggest win since joining the USL Championship.
If Miami (5-5-2, 17 pts) ends up making the playoffs, this might be the match the club looks back on as a turning point. Defender Callum Chapman-Page’s header in the 78th minute will be a moment fans remember for a long time, giving Miami its first win over the Rowdies since 2017 in the U.S. Open Cup.
The Orange and Blue will get another crack at Tampa Bay on July 17 (this time with fans finally being allowed to watch from the stands). But first, they have to go on the road and face Loudoun United on Sunday night.
Know Your Enemy: Loudoun United
While the Virginia-based side sits at the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings, Loudoun United (2-8-0, 6 pts) has shown flashes of promise this season. Less than two weeks ago, Loudoun upset the second-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds with a 2-1 win on June 30.
When Miami and Loudoun met to kick off the 2021 season on May 2, Miami seemed to well on its way to a rout, scoring two goals in the first 10 minutes of play. But a red card to Miami’s Janos Lobe turned the match upside down. Despite playing a man down for most of the match, Miami held on for a 2-1 win.
Loudoun has struggled to find the back of the net this season. They’ve scored just nine goals through 10 games this season (the second-lowest total in the league). And that’s despite being tied for second in the league in shots taken (162). Unsurprisingly, their 8.3% shot conversion rate is the worst in the entire Championship. In Loudoun’s case, quantity definitely hasn’t meant quality.
One of the few bright spots for Loudoun has been D.C. United loanee Jovanny Bolivar. The 19-year-old Venezuelan leads the club with four goals this season, including the game winners in both of Loudoun’s victories this season.
Keys To A Miami Victory
Miami has yet to string together back-to-back wins this season, but Sunday’s match feels like a golden opportunity to fix that. If Miami can replicate their game script from the season opener (minus the red card, of course), it could be a long night for Loudon.
Miami will want to set the pace early and put lots of pressure on Loudoun goalkeeper Jermaine Fordah, who has conceded 15 goals this season. Miami has seen a lot of success sending long passes into the box and letting its attackers crash the net to do the rest. That could prove to be a winning strategy against a suspect Loudoun backline.
On defense, Miami will want to limit Loudoun’s chances by keeping the ball away from Jovanny Bolivar and protecting the net in front of goalkeeper Connor Sparrow. Defender Paco Craig has been a stalwart in the back for Miami FC, and he leads the Championship with 65 clearances. Keep an eye on him to continue that trend and frustrate Loudoun’s attackers.
Despite being on the road and playing on just a few days’ rest, Miami should still be able to take care of business and pick up another victory against a struggling Loudoun side. With Miami now back in playoff position, they don’t want to waste an opportunity to close the gap between them and Pittsburgh (6-4-3, 21 pts) in the standings.
In the season opener, Miami was well on its way to routing Loudoun United before a red card forced them to pivot and play a more defensive game. Expect Miami to finish the job they started back in the home opener and return home with some momentum.
Miami still hasn’t been able to score more than two goals in any given match this season. Can they finally put on a scoring clinic on the road against Loudoun? My guess is they finally crack that ceiling this weekend… but I’ve been wrong on this before.
Miami FC 3 – Loudoun United 1
WHO: Miami FC (5-5-2, 17 pts) vs. Loudoun United (2-8-0, 6 pts)
WHEN: Sunday, July 11 // 7:30 pm EST
WHERE: Segra Field (Leesburg, VA)
- Miami FC – None
- Loudoun United – Michael Gamble