They say there’s no place like home, and that’s been true for Miami FC this summer.
FIU Stadium has been a fortress for the Blue and Orange lately. Miami has won four consecutive home matches dating back to June 26, including two wins against the first-place Tampa Bay Rowdies. But that streak will be put to the test Sunday night when Miami hosts the Hartford Athletic, the only team division rival Miami hasn’t won against this season.
This will be the fourth and final regular season meeting between the two clubs. Hartford has dominated the series so far, winning the first two matches with Miami fighting to a draw when the two teams met last on Aug. 4.
Can Miami FC (9-6-4, 31 points) finally crack the code and earn a victory against the Connecticut-based club? A win could pull Miami neck-and-neck with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh at the top of the table. Another loss to Hartford, however, could put them in a dogfight for the final two playoff spots in the Atlantic Division.
Know Your Enemy: Hartford Athletic
The playoff race in the Atlantic is heating up, and the Hartford Athletic (8-6-3, 27 pts) are still right in the thick of it. After a hot start to their season, things have leveled off for the Athletic in recent weeks. They’ve lost three of their past five matches, but are coming off a huge 2-1 midweek victory against the Charleston Battery on Aug. 17 to jump back into fourth place.
As they prepare for the final stretch of the season, the Athletic brought in some reinforcements to help them get to the postseason. They added midfielder Justin Haak on loan from New York City FC and Guatemala international Darwin Lom to bolster their attack up front. Both made their debut in the win over Charleston, adding a much needed jolt to their lineup.
But Miami still needs to watch out for Danny Barrera, who leads the club with five goals and eight assists. Interestingly, Miami has held him scoreless in their three meetings so far this season. But he has assisted on three of Hartford’s four goals during those matches.
And then there’s Goalkeeper of the Year nominee Jeff Caldwell. Caldwell leads the league in saves (68) and has shut out Miami FC twice this season.
Keys To A The Miami FC Victory
Miami FC’s depth will be put to the test this weekend. They will have to make do without goalkeeper Connor Sparrow and forward Cristiano François. Both were issued red cards in Miami’s scoreless draw on the road against Austin on Aug. 14. Now Head Coach Paul Dalglish will have to make some interesting decisions with the lineup.
Backup keeper and Haitian international Brian Sylvestre filled in admirably for Sparrow in his first taste of USL Championship action all season, and he will have to be sharp again on Sunday against a lethally efficient Hartford attack. And Sylvestre will certainly need help from his backline, led by defender Paco Craig (who was nominated for Midseason Defender of the Year honors).
François’s absence, meanwhile, may open the door for midfielder Speedy Williams to build on his terrific performances against Pittsburgh and Austin last week. Williams was voted Player of the Week after scoring twice in Miami’s comeback win over the Riverhounds on Aug. 11. Can he deliver another big performance against Hartford?
Miami has been stellar at home over the past two months and has shown resilience in recent victories. But with two key contributors forced to sit out and Hartford coming in with some fresh blood in its Starting XI, it may be difficult for Miami to come away with three points.
Miami FC 1 – Hartford Athletic 1
WHO: Miami FC (9-6-4, 31 points) vs. Hartford Athletic (8-6-3, 27 pts)
WHEN: Sunday, August 22 || 6:30 pm EST
WHERE: FIU Stadium (Miami, FL)
- Miami FC – Connor Sparrow, Cristiano François
- Hartford Athletic – None