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 was never truly in it. Yes, there were positive runs of play. Yes, there was a 89th-minute opportunity that fans, Kwadwo Poku and Vincenzo Rennella will replay in their minds for months to come. But much like in the previous game against the New York Cosmos, there was no real indicator to show that Miami FC was the team that one would expect to win.
Miami FC came into the match as betting favorites, but it was FC Cincinnati that had more positive opportunities throughout the first half. A notable high press helped to create some opportunities for Cincinnati, with no payoff. Perhaps the stifling humidity helped to slow Cincinnati down, but it had much of the same effect of Miami FC.
In the second half, there was a more positive patch from Miami FC, but it all went awry in the 68th minute, when Djiby Fall knocked in a cross from Justin Hoyte through the legs of Mario Daniel Vega. It was Hoyte who did most of the work, putting defensive back Hunter Freeman on skates then taking the ball to the end line, with Fall just getting a slight touch on the cross.
Perhaps Miami FC’s best attribute this season has been its resiliency. Many would have expected a quick response from the team. It never came.
Substitutions came after the goal, as Ariel Martinez came on for Dylan Mares and Michel came on for Michael Lahoud, but it just didn’t spark any magic. The only moment of intrigue for Miami FC was the 89th-minute attempt from Poku, which involved a lovely run across the box and through the FC Cincinnati defense, but it was spoiled by multiple deflections from FC Cincinnati and, finally and most frustratingly, by Miami FC forward Rennella. An inch in either direction and Miami FC likely equalizes. Instead, the opportunity — and the game — flew away.
Now, Miami FC will have no choice but to focus on the NASL Fall Season and the combined standings. FC Cincinnati will advance to host New York Red Bulls in the semifinals on Aug. 15. Miami FC will host North Carolina FC on Aug. 5. But many will be left to wonder what might have been.