Shuffling some players around following last week’s defeat to Charleston Battery, Miami looked to Francois and Walker to provide a burst down the wings. Captain Speedy Williams replaced Ariel Martinez in the number 10 role and Ballard was given a start at right back. Miami FC got off to a slow start with the first chance coming for Birmingham Legion’s Serbena Lapa who had his shot sail harmlessly over the crossbar. After a sluggish start Miami began to enjoy some possession in midfield giving Speedy the time he needed to start picking out runs into the box.
Miami’s first opportunity came in the 34’ minute as Walker got into the box but then (in what would be a recurring theme throughout the match) tripped over the ball without getting a shot off. A chance would come again for Walker in the 41’, after a cheeky pass by Da Silva, Walker twisted and turned to break his marker but fell over while shooting and so the ball was chipped softly into a waiting Van Oekel. Headed into the half both teams had had their fair share of chances but nothing to show for them.
Coming into the second half Birmingham looked inspired and like the better team, testing Sparrow and looking for the opening goal. A goal that almost came when Chapman-Paige was dispossessed by an inspired Flemmings starting a 3v1 counter attack, Flemmings decided instead to take it himself after rounding Paco Craig but his shot whizzed right in what should have been a Legion goal. Just minutes later in the 54’ Miami would get a chance of their own as Francois sent it all the way across goal but there was no one to follow up.
Fresh legs were brought into the front with Billy Forbes replacing Lamar Walker and Adonijah Reid coming in for a visibly upset Francois. A chance would come for Miami in the 66’ as Bolu Akinyode forced a giveaway and in the backline, Da Silva sprinted forwards and sent a cross to a wide open Billy Forbes who gave it a heavy touch which just happened to fall at the feet of Bolu Akinyode whose cracking shot was punched out by Van Oekel. The danger was still not gone as seconds later Ballard got into the box and sent a powerful shot just inches wide of the top corner. A chance would come in the 72’ for Birmingham as Flemmings powered down the right hand side, beating Paco Craig and slipping it to an unmarked Lapa who would have surely scored if it wasn’t for Ballard, who came sprinting seemingly out of nowhere with a perfectly timed tackle across the box to keep the game level. Changes would come again a minute later, with Ariel Martinez coming in for Da Silva with Daglish looking for a little Cuban magic to snatch the win.
It would only be a few minutes before Ariel Martinez was fouled right on the edge of the box. Reid and Martinez both stepped over it but it would be Ariel to take it, whose shot ricocheted off of the single Miami player in the wall sending the ball out for a goal kick. The one and only goal of the match would come in the 81’ as Birmingham’s Jerome Williams let a pass through for an unmarked Nico Brett who buried it in the bottom right corner. Miami fought hard to get back into the game, with their best chance for an equalizer coming in the final minutes of the match with Miami winning a free kick in the final third. In a last ditch attempt to maybe earn a point even Connor Sparrow was sent forwards. Reids initial cross was dealt with but Miami managed to retain possession and mount one last attack, Bolu’s initial shot was blocked but he flicked it over to Reid who sent it way off target and into the stands. Birmingham legion would hold the lead and take all 3 points with them.
The Miami FC will obviously be frustrated with the result especially given that they had 20 shots in the match (almost double that of the Legion). Miami will need to be more clinical in front of goal as the season progresses if they want any hope of qualifying for the playoffs. Miami currently sit in 5th place in the Atlantic Division, 3pts behind Hartford Athletic who have 3 games in hand. The win sends Birmingham Legion into 1st place in the Central Division. The Miami FC’s next match will be at home as they face Charlotte Independence on June 26 at 7:30pm in Riccardo Silva Stadium.