The wait is finally over. For the first time since joining the USL Championship, Miami FC will be playing in front of a home crowd at Riccardo Silva Stadium. And the timing couldn’t be any better.
Miami is unbeaten in its last four matches and picked up three wins during that streak, including a decisive 4-1 victory at Loudoun last weekend. Miami FC (6-2-5, 20 points) now sits in fourth place in the Atlantic Division standings as they enter a pivotal seven-game stretch. Five of those matches against the teams ahead of them in the table: Tampa, Hartford and Pittsburgh.
It all begins this weekend as Miami hosts the Tampa Bay Rowdies for the second time in 10 days. Just four points separate the two in-state rivals, and a second straight win against Tampa could turn the race for the Atlantic Division crown on its head.
Know Your Enemy: Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Tampa Bay Rowdies (8-4-0, 24 pts) and Miami FC have split victories in their two meetings so far this season. Miami was dealt a loss by the Rowdies in their first trip to Tampa back in May. But they returned the favor with a 2-1 victory at home on July 7, thanks to a Callum Chapman-Page’s heroics.
Forward Sebastian Guenzatti is always a threat up front for the Rowdies. With eight goals this season, he is tied for second in the league in goals scored and is still hanging around the Golden Boot conversation. When he scores, chances are a Tampa win follows.
After a tough 1-0 loss to the surging Hartford Athletic on Tuesday, Tampa Bay will be desperate to avoid a third straight loss. It’s a tall task, since they will have to do so on four days’ rest. But don’t let Tampa’s recent struggles fool you. They are still one of the league’s strongest defensive sides. They’ve only conceded nine goals all season and goalkeeper Evan Louro has recorded five clean sheets.
Keys To A Miami Victory
Four different Miami FC players scored goals for the Orange and Blue against Loudoun this past Sunday. That reflects a theme we’ve seen develop for Miami this season: The club doesn’t need to lean on a single, dangerous goal scorer for success.
Instead, Miami is keen on attacking with numbers and spreading opportunities around to its many offensive weapons. Five different Miami FC players (Billy Forbes, Callum Chapman-Page, Adonijah Reid, Ariel Martinez and Christiano François) each have two goals apiece. And Miami has quietly climbed to seventh in the league in goals scored (19).
Keep an eye on Christiano François on Saturday. He has come into his own as of late, and was named to the USL Championship Team of the Week after recording a goal and an assist against Loudoun. Can he utilize his speed to wreak havoc against a much tougher Rowdies backline?
Meanwhile, midfielder and captain Ariel Martinez was a spark plug for Miami off the bench in last week’s victory. It’s a role he could find more success in as the season progresses.
The main key for tonight’s match might just be YOU. The Miami FC will reopen Riccardo Silva Stadium tonight for the first time since the fall of 2019. Miami has done well ok behind closed doors, but the Orange and Blue faithful may provide that extra gear this teams needs as it makes its playoff push.
This is going to be a big test for Miami FC in the reopener. With the chance to play in front of a home crowd for the first time since the fall of 2019, a win would send a message to the rest of the Atlantic Division that the race for the top spot is wide open.
Whenever Miami FC and Tampa Bay meet, you can always expect an entertaining match that could go either way. I don’t think Saturday night will be an exception. With Miami’s momentum and the boost in morale from playing in front of fans again, I have to give the edge to the home team.
Miami FC 3 – Tampa Bay Rowdies 2
WHO: Miami FC (6-5-2, 20 pts) vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies (8-4-0, 24 pts)
WHEN: Saturday, July 17 // 7:30 pm EST
WHERE: Riccardo Silva Stadium (Miami, FL)
- Miami FC – None
- Tampa Bay Rowdies – None