The matchup that fans of the lower leagues in South Florida have been wanting for the last year is finally here. Today is the day two of the finest teams in the state go toe-to-toe in a competitive game. A US Open Cup first round encounter that sees NPSL champions Miami FC against UPSL national finalists Florida Soccer Soldiers.
FC qualified direct for the first round thanks to their title winning season in the NPSL. The Florida Soccer Solders came through the qualifying tournament with wins against Miami Sun, Red Force and Hurricane FC. They received a bye in the final qualifying round after opponents America SC from Central Florida withdrew. On that qualifying run, Soldiers scored nine and conceded just one goal. They are not an easy team to beat.
Florida Soccer Soldiers at Hurricane FC. Photo courtesy Florida Soccer Soldiers.
Both teams go into the game knowing what might await them in the coming rounds. The winner of this game will head to North Carolina for a crack at Charlotte Independence of the USL Championship. The victor travels to the winner of the second round tie between Tampa Bay Rowdies and Villages SC. Fourth round would almost certainly be a game against Orlando City SC. So, all to play for.
Florida Soccer Soldiers were formed in 2018 and in their short history have taken the UPSL in South Florida by force. Winning the spring season and going to the national championships where they lost in the semi finals to eventual winners Milwaukee Bavarian SC. Head coach is Daniel Godoy, a man with an impressive resume. In his professional career he played with Caracas FC in Venezuela winning plural national titles and playing in three Copa Libertadores tournaments. With Deportivo Lara he appeared in the Copa Sudamericana. Godoy also has international experience with one appearance for the Venezuelan under 23 side in an Olympic Games qualifier against Chile plus two full international caps with the Vinotinto in 2006 and 2007 against Uruguay and Ecuador. Closer to home he has NPSL titles with Miami United in 2016 and Miami Fusion in 2017. He’s a USSF and Conmebol B license holder. This man has the experience and the credentials to get a side playing good soccer.
Daniel Godoy. Photo courtesy Florida Soccer Soldiers.
And they do. The Soccer Soldiers have a distinct style rooted in classy South American principles with a playing squad that blends experienced ex-professionals and some of the local area’s best talent. Captain Antonioni Gonzalez is a quality playmaker. Midfielder Jose Guanipa is one to watch for golazos and keep an eye out for tricky wingers like Valentin Sabella and Josduard Serrano. Sabella was top scorer for the Soldiers in the qualifying tournament. In goal is Bryant Martin. An acrobatic keeper who is a great shot stopper. The team have five wins out of five in UPSL regular season play this year. Soccer Soldiers are likely to try to keep possession and work carefully to create their chances in the final third in their first Open Cup match.
Paul Dalglish figuring out his first XI. Photo courtesy Miami FC.
FC are on the rebound after a disappointing showing in act two of the Magic City Clasico at Miami United. They hammered Storm FC with a 10-0 scoreline at the weekend and will be in the mood to right a few wrongs after they were put in their place by United in last year’s tournament. Paul Dalglish can’t afford to rotate his squad against an opponent he has to be wary of and since the key to this game is likely to be the midfield battle, expect a full strength unit in the middle of the park. Soldiers are less likely to play direct in behind the FC defense like United did two weeks ago. This is going to be a chess match and we can expect Dalglish to turn to the technicians at the back. Up front should be the first choice forward line of Suarez – Thiaw – Sam.
On paper this is a Miami FC win but it will be a lot closer than some people might expect. Florida Soccer Soldiers do possess the quality to control parts of the game and surprise FC. Miami will need to give these opponents the respect they deserve, especially in the open cup. Scholars of the game are going to be in for a treat and ultimately one team must win, don’t be surprised if it’s through extra time or even a penalty shootout.
This is the game of the month in Miami. Unmissable. Get your tickets now!