Tonight’s match has been three years in the making. Unfortunately for soccer fans in Florida, this game has to take place behind closed doors. The Miami FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies have been some of the most competitive clubs in lower division soccer for quite some time. Last sharing a league in 2016 (NASL), the Rowdies made the jump to USL and never looked back. Miami opens their “home” season tonight hoping to secure their first USL win.
The last time these two teams squared off against one another was during Miami’s magical U.S. Open Cup run in 2017. Miami bested their old foes 2-0 at Riccardo Silva Stadium in a craftily tactical performance with two late goals coming from Vincenzo Renella and Jaime Chavez. That match and those names are far in the rear-view mirror. Leo Fernandes, the Rowdies’ skillful midfielder, is the only carry-over left from that 2017 match. Fernandes has started the season on a tear with 3 goals and an assist in his first five matches.
Omar’s Keys To A Miami FC Victory
Miami’s defensive performance will be paramount to their success against the rowdies. Head Coach Nelson Vargas went with a defensive minded approach on the flanks as Marco Franco and Janos Löbe earned the start over Othello Bah and Lloyd Sam. Atlanta United earned very little through the wings and much of that was in credit to the performance of Franco and Lobe. On the other hand, Hassan Ndam and Brenton Griffiths were disastrous in the middle. Poor positioning, half-hearted clearances, and disappointing outlet passes could have sealed Miami’s fate early in that match. The duo must be much better against the potent Rowdies attack.
Harrison Heath had a masterful performance in his previous outing and Miami will need him to do even better. The Rowdies have given up some goals since their return to action. Heath will have to unlock the midfield and be the link between the defense and the attack. If Sebastian Velasquez is unavailable for Miami tonight, expect either Heath or Vincent Bezecourt to fill in the #10 role.
The Rowdies can transition quickly and have a plethora of speed. Lance Rozeboom and Tomas Granitto will need to establish a physical presence in the midfield and shut down the Rowdies’ passing lanes as they look to move forward. Keeping Fernandes’ quiet throughout the match will go a long way to getting Miami their first points of the season.
Lee’s Keys To A Miami FC Victory
Miami have to win this game or they are in serious trouble. Then there’s all the small stuff like playing on an artificial surface, which Miami have been training on that for the last two weeks. The Rowdies have to drive down and get 30 minutes warm up on an unfamiliar surface. Everything points to a narrow FC win for me.
The rowdies are nowhere near the physical unit that Atlanta are as well. This will be a good game, and close. Tampa have been playing 3 at the back this season. I don’t think Tampa can afford to leave their wing backs high up the pitch against Miami because Miami will get behind them and batter them. Their is a significant possibility that the Rowdies change their system for tonight’s match. They have no real incentive to win here, so the most obvious change is to go 5 at the back. If they can frustrate Miami and come back with a point that will be a good night’s work for them.
If Tampa attempts to push forward on Miami they are likely to get opened up and it’ll lead to chances for the Orange & Blue. Tampa just needs point and will likely play slow and cautious. One goal wins this game, and it’s up to Miami to breakdown the Rowdies defense and not allow the Rowdies to counter.
I strongly believe that Coach Vargas has whipped his defense into shape after their debacle in Atlanta. The biggest question mark surrounding tonight’s have is the availability of Velasquez who has proven to be a game changer at the USL level. If Velasquez is unable to go, Miami should be deploying four midfielders ready to spring Miguel Gonzalez and Mohamed Thiaw free up front on the counter. Tonight’s game has the ability to be ugly. Miami doesn’t pride itself on playing ugly and overtly physical football. Unfortunately, that is the recipe that may be needed to come away with their first USL points.
The Miami FC 2 – 2 Tampa Bay Rowdies
At the time of writing Miami are the betting line favorite with a regulation win at +135. Tampa’s odds have decreased since the books have opened falling from +170 to +155 for a regulation win. On the spread, Miami is paying even money when your bet is split between 0 and -0.5 (Tampa is paying -140 for the opposite). Both teams to score is likely given the price offered by the books at -150. If you are looking for action tonight I think you land a winner on BTTS at -150.
Lee Ifans contributed to this article.