If there’s one dark horse that could stir up trouble for Miami FC (12-6-6, 42 points) in the final month of the regular season, it’s the Charlotte Independence. While Miami is essentially a lock to clinch its first USL Championship playoff berth, they may have to watch their back lest Charlotte overtake them.
The Independence are tightening their grip on the fourth and final playoff place in the Atlantic Division. Riding a three-game winning streak, Charlotte has put a seven-point cushion between themselves and Charleston and Hartford. And a Charlotte victory Wednesday night would shrink the gap between the Independence and third-place Miami to a mere two points… with Charlotte still holding a match in hand.
Know Your Enemy: Charlotte Independence
Since Miami fought back to earn a 2-2 draw at home against the Charlotte Independence (11-8-4, 37 pts) on Sept. 4, Charlotte has caught fire. The Independence haven’t allowed a goal since that match, outscoring their opponents 8-0 during their three-game win streak.
French midfielder Sylvain Marveaux has played a huge role in Charlotte’s incredible turnaround this season. Since joining the club in late June, the 35-year-old has tallied four goals and three assists. His Premier League and Ligue 1 experience has transferred well to the United States thus far.
Meanwhile, forward Irvin Parra continues to wreak havoc on opposing defenses, leading the team with 12 goals so far this season. In Charlotte’s last outing, Parra scored the game-winner in the 81st minute in a 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Sept. 18.
Goalkeeper Austin Pack appears to have won the trust of Head Coach Mike Jeffries and he’s earned three straight clean sheets, thanks in large part to a solid backline in front of him led by defender Christian Fuchs.
Keys To A Miami Victory
Miami’s backline will have its hands full now that Charlotte has a plethora of weapons on the attack. Defender Paco Craig has been excellent all season long, and he made a potential game-saving clearance this past weekend against Charleston that may have single-handedly kept Miami’s unbeaten streak alive.
Craig and the rest of the backline will need to keep the traffic away from goalkeeper Connor Sparrow if the club wants to keep that streak going. They will need to keep close tabs on Irvin Parra, who scored the
Forward Ariel Martinez returned to action this past weekend after missing a handful of games with an injury and immediately made his impact help. Martinez provided the assisted on Lamar Walker’s goal and nearly scored the game-winner in the final minutes against Charleston, but his 88th minute shot went off the crossbar. Can Martinez, who has four goals this season, find the back of the net against Charlotte?
Against a Charlotte team riding momentum, Miami may want to attack early and often to try to capture an early lead. After all, Miami is 9-2-0 when scoring first this season. Too often during this unbeaten streak, Miami has found themselves playing from behind and forced to settle for draws.
Charlotte has put all the pieces together to make a splash over the final few weeks of the regular season. And Miami is catching them at just the wrong time. Having to travel to the Queen City in the middle of the week against one of the hottest teams in the league is a tough test for Miami.
The fact that Charlotte is very tough to beat at home (7-1-4) does not bode well for the visitors. This could very well be the end of the road for Miami’s impressive nine-game unbeaten streak.
Charlotte Independence 2 – Miami FC 1
WHO: Miami FC (12-6-6, 42 points) vs. Charlotte Independence (11-8-4, 37 pts)
WHEN: Wednesday, September 22 // 7:00 pm EST
WHERE: American Legion Memorial Stadium (Charlotte, NC)
- Miami FC – None
- Charlotte Independence – None