Well let’s be honest, perhaps soccer is the last thing on your mind at the moment. Nobody could blame you and we strongly urge that you finish up your hurricane preparations before even thinking about attending tonight’s Miami FC game. Our preview is going to be short and to the point because we still have some prep work to do ourselves and we will probably not be in attendance.
The highly anticipated rematch between the top two teams in the NASL fall table is here. As we mentioned last week, the fall season has been a reverse of fortune for teams who found themselves at the bottom in the spring. Positions three and four are currently held by Edmonton and North Carolina who need a magical run in this campaign to earn a spot in the NASL playoffs.
It’s been a while since Miami FC have faced off against the football club from “La Isla Bonita”. These teams know each other well although it doesn’t really seem that they play often. Perhaps that’s because these games have been less notable than those against other NASL foes.
Miami enters this game venturing into uncharted territory. Only once in club history have they dropped four matches in a row. To call the third game of the fall season a must win is hyperbole at best, however, that may be the sentiment inside the locker room tonight for the Blues.
After the disappointment against FC Cincinnati in Wednesday’s quarter-final cup action, Miami finds themselves trying to pick up the pieces after losing two straight games. It’s been a while since Nesta & Company have lost multiple matches in a row. The last time Miami FC dropped repeated matches was towards the end of the fall season in 2016. Dropping three in a row? You have to go back to the nightmarish spring season of 2016.
Three weeks ago, The Miami FC was the hottest club in North American soccer. Just coming off a 14-game unbeaten streak, the club defeated second-place San Francisco Deltas 7-0 to claim the NASL Spring Season title and had everything to look forward to in a matchup against FC Cincinnati in which it would be favored. Mother Nature intervened and forced a postponement to Aug. 2. Three weeks isn’t that long, right?
For Miami FC and its fans (10,415 of whom showed up Wednesday night — a club record), it feels like an eternity. The club is officially on a losing streak, capped off with the indignity of a 1-0 home shutout to Cincinnati and an ignoble exit from a memorable U.S. Open Cup run.
Miami FC has turned into an offensive juggernaut in the NASL. Few teams in the league have the defensive ability to keep up with this group of attackers. Whether it’s blowing teams out by numerous goals or being able to cash in on the lone chance of the night, Pinho, Rennella and Poku have come in clutch all season. Their job has been made much easier thanks to the play of the midfield group that we recapped yesterday. Let’s take a look at the trio’s season so far and their best moments.
The Miami FC weren’t nearly as dominant as they were a week before against the San Francisco Deltas.
However, it’s hard to top a 7-0 scoreline.
Miami FC scored first, benefitted from red cards (plural) and again handled the San Francisco Deltas, 3-1.
How many teams get a chance to continue their fantastic cup run after securing a playoff spot in their league? That answer has to be few to none (I know, I know European leagues don’t do playoffs). Miami’s unbeaten run of 14 games ended on the 4th of July to North Carolina FC in a game that lacked the proverbial fireworks that Miami put on Saturday against the San Francisco Deltas. If anything, it’s clear this team doesn’t appreciate getting hit in the mouth. On the heels of the 1-0 loss, Miami came home and obliterated the Deltas 7-0.
Miami FC can continue their historic cup run tonight against an opponent in their same weight class. If the Blues have played a ton of games in recent memory, FC Cincinnati has played even more. This will be their third match in six days ― having previously visited Tampa and returned home to face Richmond. Cincinnati is a team that resembles Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Boasting a 6-6-6 record in United Soccer League play and sitting in sixth place in the USL East, FCC hasn’t produced many points away from the friendly confines of Nippert Stadium. How opposite have these performances been? 5 points in 8 games away from home.
As we discussed with Bryan Weigel earlier this week, this team is nursing injuries, pushing through a heavy schedule and attempting to stay in the USL playoff race. Their cup form has been very similar to our own, with the added benefit of not having to travel. The kicker is they have yet to concede a goal in U.S. Open Cup competition! It shows what home cooking can do for a team.
Miami will be looking to bring that statistic to an end Wednesday night at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Being able to provide extra rest on Saturday to Kwadwo Poku, Vincenzo Rennella, and Richie Ryan will prove critical when playing a team that is willing to absorb a ton of pressure. FCC will try and clog all of the passing lanes while playing 10 men behind the ball. This is a team that kept the Chicago Fire off the score sheet for 120 minutes!
Miami will have to be patient and choose carefully when to send bodies forward. We’ve seen the best teams in the world lose to opponents who park the bus early and finish their only chance on goal. The Blues surely will have their eye on FCC striker Djiby Fall and prepare for a quick counterattack hoping to catch Miami’s backline asleep.
The keys to Miami’s victory lie within the midfield’s ability to get balls into Poku, Stefano Pinho, and Rennella. Their ability to finish even the toughest of chances in the worst of angles will add pressure to the back three that FCC typically employs. If FCC attempts to man mark the PPR highway, it could be a long night for Mitch Hildebrandt & company. One or two early goals and you can seal Miami’s entrance into the semifinals of the cup.
Score prediction: Miami FC 3 – FC Cincinnati 1
What a difference a year makes.
Back in 2016 with the spring season of the NASL drawing to a close, The Miami FC were struggling. Porous at the back and mis-firing up front, the promise the franchise showed off the pitch had not been fulfilled. They finished 11th of 11 and deserved no more than that.
Fast-forward 12 months and Alessandro Nesta’s men are playing scintillating soccer, marauding their way to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals and trouncing teams by four goals… seven goals even, while also keeping clean sheets. So what has changed? In truth, it’s not been a revolution but an evolution.