Tag Archives: 2021 USL Championship Season

Previewing The Match: The Miami FC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds

As we enter the final month of the regular season, the playoff picture in the USL Championship’s Atlantic Division is beginning to crystallize. Miami FC–along with Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Charlotte–have separated themselves from the rest of the division. Now it’s simply a matter of positioning.

In many ways, Miami controls its own destiny. Miami FC (13-7-6, 45 pts) currently sits in third place, just three points behind the second-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds (with Miami still holding a game in hand). And they will host Pittsburgh twice at FIU Stadium in the next 14 days, including Saturday night’s match. 

A Miami victory would pull the Orange and Blue even with their Steel City rivals. And with the surging Charlotte Independence breathing down their necks, Miami can ill afford to let down their guard. 

Know Your Enemy: Pittsburgh Riverhounds

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds (14-7-6, 48 pts) have managed to maintain their spot behind the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the standings for most of the second half of the season. But their grip has started to loosen with Miami and Charlotte both challenging the Riverhounds for that pivotal second place position, which would ensure home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. 

Miami and Pittsburgh have met twice so far this season–both times at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh. Their first meeting ended in a 1-1 draw on June 12. When they clashed again on Aug. 11, Miami erased a two-goal deficit to earn a 3-2 victory on the road. 

Since the first tiebreaker in the USL Championship is based on head-to-head points earned in regular season, a Miami victory would give them the edge over Pittsburgh should the two teams finish with the same number of points at the end of the season.

Russell Cicerone and Hugh Alexander Dixon have been the go-to attackers for the Riverhounds all season. Cicerone has established himself as one of the league’s top goal scorers. He’s found the back of the net 14 times while adding seven assists to his name. Dixon, meanwhile, is right behind him with nine goals and also has seven assists.

And don’t forget about Kenardo Forbes. The Jamaican midfielder has six assists this season and loves to deliver dangerous crosses into the box (he is third in the league with 144 crosses). He can give opposing defenders headaches trying to contain him. 

Keys To A Miami Victory

Devon “Speedy” Williams, who will join the Jamaican national team for their upcoming World Cup qualifying matches, scored twice in Miami’s comeback victory. Meanwhile, former Riverhound Cristiano François has scored twice against Pittsburgh so far this season. Both players will be worth keeping an eye on Saturday night. 

Ariel Martinez has been a strong presence for Miami since returning from injury, earning a spot on the USL Championship’s Team of the Week after scoring a goal and tallying two assists in the club’s 6-1 rout over Loudoun United. Martinez now has five goals and a team-high seven assists this season. 

Miami managed to keep Cicerone and Dixon off the scoresheet last time around, but still found itself trailing during their last meeting. Goalkeeper Connor Sparrow has been in top form over the past few weeks, and he will need to stay sharp against one of the more well-balanced attacking teams in the league.  


After a tough midweek loss to Charlotte, Miami bounced back in a big way. They put up six goals against lowly Loudoun and enter the final month of the season with confidence. Miami also added some reinforcements to their lineup that give them the depth to make a deep playoff run. 

Pittsburgh has appeared vulnerable at times in recent months, and Miami should be able to take advantage of that in front of a home crowd. 

Miami FC 3 – Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1

Game Notes

WHO: Miami FC (13-7-6, 45 pts) vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (14-7-6, 48 pts)

WHEN: Saturday, October 2 // 7:30 pm EST

WHERE: FIU Stadium (Miami, FL)



  • Miami FC – None
  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds – Caution Accumulation Warning: Dani Rovira


The Miami FC vs. Hartford Athletic: Previewing The Match

The Miami FC hosts Hartford Athletic on Sunday night.

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

Game Notes

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

The Miami FC v Austin Bold FC: Previewing The Match

It’s starting to feel a little crowded at the top of the Atlantic Division. And it could get even more crowded by the end of the weekend. 

After a rocky start to the season, Miami FC (9-6-3, 30 pts) has stormed back with a tremendous summer stretch. The Blue and Orange have only lost once in its past nine matches dating back to June 26 with six victories during that span. That includes a thrilling come-from-behind road victory over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Wednesday night to tighten the race.

The Miami FC v Pittsburgh Riverhounds: Previewing The Match

If Miami FC wants to prove that they are the best in the Atlantic, they will have to beat the best. And right now, the first-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds are the best.  

There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful about Miami FC (8-6-3, 27 pts) as enter the back half of the 2021 season. And yet, Miami has struggled to find that “big win” on the road this season.

A win on Wednesday night in the Steel City could change that and turn the race for the Atlantic Division’s top spot on its head. But what will it take for Miami FC to take down the red-hot Riverhounds? Let’s find out. 

Know Your Enemy: Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Riding a four-game winning streak, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (10-4-3, 33 pts) surged past Tampa Bay and now sit atop the Atlantic Division.    

Russell Cicerone and Hugh Alexander Dixon have been pivotal to the Riverhounds success this season. Cicerone leads the club with eight goals and four assists. Dixon, meanwhile, is right behind him with six goals and four assists.

In Pittsburgh’s 3-2 victory over Charleston last Friday, Cicerone opened the scoring in the 24th minute. Dixon then added a pair of goals in the winning effort. Dixon, for his efforts, earned his third straight selection to the USL Championship Team of the Week.    

The Riverhounds are one of the toughest defensive teams in the league. They’ve only allowed 18 goals so far this season (1.05 goals per game). And they have been formidable at home, compiling a 4-2-1 record at Highmark Stadium this season. 

Miami and Pittsburgh will meet again two more times this season. Both will be late season matches at FIU Stadium in October. If both squads continue on their current trajectories, those two matches could determine playoff positioning for Miami FC and Pittsburgh. 

Keys To A Miami Victory

In their only meeting this season, Miami FC and Pittsburgh fought to a 1-1 draw at Highmark Stadium on June 12. Cicerone gave Pittsburgh the early lead, but former Riverhound Cristiano François leveled the match for Miami just before the end of the first half to help Miami earn a point. Can François, who has three goals and three assists so far this season, help lift Miami to a huge victory against his former club? 

Miami must find a way to shut down Cicerone and Dixon and keep them off the scoresheet. Miami’s backline, led by Paco Craig, will need to be at their best and goalkeeper Connor Sparrow may need to make a big stop or two to help the Orange and Blue steal three points on the road.  


If Miami wants to compete for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, they will need to find a way to beat teams like Pittsburgh–especially away from the friendly confines of FIU Stadium. But they are running into Pittsburgh at the worst possible time.

The Riverhounds are making a case that they are the new team to beat in the division. Despite Miami FC’s impressive play lately, it’s hard to see them taking down the hottest team in the division on the road. 

Pittsburgh Riverhounds 3 – Miami FC 2

Game Notes

WHO: Miami FC (8-6-3, 27 pts) vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (10-4-3, 33 pts)

WHEN: Wednesday, August 11 // 6:00 pm EST

WHERE: Highmark Stadium (Pittsburgh, PA)

WATCH: ESPN+ in the US, YouTube internationally


  • Miami FC – None
  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds – None

The Miami FC v Hartford Athletic: Previewing The Match

There is little debate that Miami FC has been one of the hottest teams in the USL Championship lately. After all, this is a club that has only lost once in its past seven matches dating back to June 26. 

That one loss, though? It came at the hands of the Hartford Athletic. Now, less than two weeks after the Athletic dealt Miami a tough 2-0 loss at Dillon Stadium on July 24, Miami FC will have to travel back to Connecticut to face the one club in the Atlantic Division they can’t seem to crack. 

Miami FC (8-6-2, 26 pts) enters the match coming off of one of the most exciting wins in club history. They stormed back from a two-goal deficit to claim a 3-2 win at home over the Charleston Battery on Sunday. Can they ride the momentum from that momentous victory and finally dispatch Hartford? Or will the Athletic once again dump a bucket of cold water on Miami’s attempts to climb to the top of the table?   

Know Your Enemy: Hartford Athletic

The Hartford Athletic (7-4-2, 23 pts) currently sits in fourth place in the division. But with games in hand over all three teams ahead of them, they still have some room to catch up. 

In two matches against Hartford, Miami has failed to find the scoresheet thanks to the stellar play of goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell. The 25-year-old keeper has established himself as one of the Championship’s best netminders, recording 50 saves (the third most in the league) and five clean sheets. And two of those shutouts came against Miami.

Miami has to always be mindful of the deadly attacking trio of Tabort Etaka Preston, Juan Carlos Obregón Jr., and Danny Barrera (who assisted on both Hartford goals against Miami on July 24). They each have four goals apiece and lead one the most efficient attacking teams in the league. Hartford is a team that takes advantage of its chances and still boasts a 24% conversion rate, the highest in the Championship.   

Miami and Hartford will play one last time in the regular season on Aug. 22 at FIU Stadium. 

Keys To A Miami Victory

In that 2-0 loss to Hartford on July 24, Miami FC dominated possession for most of the match (59.6%). They also had several golden chances from point-blank that they couldn’t turn into goals. Miami also dominated possession against Charleston, despite putting themselves in  hole early in the match.

If Miami wants to win its first match against Hartford, they will need to find a way to finish their chances and somehow find a way to get the ball past Jeff Caldwell. That’s a tall order against one of the league’s top keepers. 

Forward and team captain Ariel Martinez has been the heart behind much of Miami’s inspired play in July and now leads the club with four goals scored. When Martinez takes control, he has the ability to split defenses with precision and create opportunities for himself and for his teammates. 

They’ll need that kind of spark on Wednesday night against Hartford. Especially with a chance to leapfrog Tampa Bay in the standings and jump into second place in the Atlantic Division. 


If there’s one club that has found a recipe for stopping Miami FC, it’s Hartford. And coming off short rest and a valiant effort on Sunday, it will be tough for Miami to replicate that success on the road. Especially against a team they’ve struggled to find success against. 

Hartford has only lost once in six home matches this season, and they’ll be motivated after a 3-1 road loss to the first-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Despite Miami’s strong play in recent weeks, I have to give the edge to the Athletic at home. 

Hartford Athletic 2 – Miami FC 1


Game Notes

WHO: Miami FC (8-6-2, 26 pts) vs. Hartford Athletic (7-4-2, 24 pts)

WHEN: Wednesday, August 4 // 7:00 pm EST

WHERE: Dillon Stadium (Hartford, CT)

WATCH: ESPN+ in the US, YouTube internationally.


  • Miami FC – Robert Kcira. Suspended (Red Card vs Battery).
  • Hartford Athletic – None

Miami FC Unbeaten In 4 Straight; Thrash Loudoun 4-1

Image Courtesy of The Miami FC

The Miami FC were on a mission as they arrived in Leesburg, Virginia. Miami is an awkward stage of their 2021 USL Championship season having played more games than the other Atlantic Division contenders. Miami FC came into the match 5-2-5 having amassed 17 points in their first 12 matches. With Head Coach Paul Dalglish still away from the sidelines, Miami turned to assistant coach Andy Thomson again to run the squad.

The Miami FC v Loudoun United: Previewing The Match

The Miami FC opens its season against Loudon United on Saturday. Photographic by Matthew Bunch.

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. 

Chapman Page Wins It For Miami; 2-1 Over Tampa

    Coming into the match the Tampa Bay Rowdies (8-0-2) were the heavy favorites vs Miami FC (4-2-5). Up until this point Miami had only recorded one win against the Rowdies; a hard fought 2-0 in their memorable 2017 U.S Open Cup run. Miami desperately needed a win to stay in contention for a playoff spot and achieved that with style and confidence against one of the toughest opponents in the league.