There is little debate that Miami FC has been one of the hottest teams in the USL Championship lately. After all, this is a club that has only lost once in its past seven matches dating back to June 26.
That one loss, though? It came at the hands of the Hartford Athletic. Now, less than two weeks after the Athletic dealt Miami a tough 2-0 loss at Dillon Stadium on July 24, Miami FC will have to travel back to Connecticut to face the one club in the Atlantic Division they can’t seem to crack.
Miami FC (8-6-2, 26 pts) enters the match coming off of one of the most exciting wins in club history. They stormed back from a two-goal deficit to claim a 3-2 win at home over the Charleston Battery on Sunday. Can they ride the momentum from that momentous victory and finally dispatch Hartford? Or will the Athletic once again dump a bucket of cold water on Miami’s attempts to climb to the top of the table?
Know Your Enemy: Hartford Athletic
The Hartford Athletic (7-4-2, 23 pts) currently sits in fourth place in the division. But with games in hand over all three teams ahead of them, they still have some room to catch up.
In two matches against Hartford, Miami has failed to find the scoresheet thanks to the stellar play of goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell. The 25-year-old keeper has established himself as one of the Championship’s best netminders, recording 50 saves (the third most in the league) and five clean sheets. And two of those shutouts came against Miami.
Miami has to always be mindful of the deadly attacking trio of Tabort Etaka Preston, Juan Carlos Obregón Jr., and Danny Barrera (who assisted on both Hartford goals against Miami on July 24). They each have four goals apiece and lead one the most efficient attacking teams in the league. Hartford is a team that takes advantage of its chances and still boasts a 24% conversion rate, the highest in the Championship.
Miami and Hartford will play one last time in the regular season on Aug. 22 at FIU Stadium.
Keys To A Miami Victory
In that 2-0 loss to Hartford on July 24, Miami FC dominated possession for most of the match (59.6%). They also had several golden chances from point-blank that they couldn’t turn into goals. Miami also dominated possession against Charleston, despite putting themselves in hole early in the match.
If Miami wants to win its first match against Hartford, they will need to find a way to finish their chances and somehow find a way to get the ball past Jeff Caldwell. That’s a tall order against one of the league’s top keepers.
Forward and team captain Ariel Martinez has been the heart behind much of Miami’s inspired play in July and now leads the club with four goals scored. When Martinez takes control, he has the ability to split defenses with precision and create opportunities for himself and for his teammates.
They’ll need that kind of spark on Wednesday night against Hartford. Especially with a chance to leapfrog Tampa Bay in the standings and jump into second place in the Atlantic Division.
If there’s one club that has found a recipe for stopping Miami FC, it’s Hartford. And coming off short rest and a valiant effort on Sunday, it will be tough for Miami to replicate that success on the road. Especially against a team they’ve struggled to find success against.
Hartford has only lost once in six home matches this season, and they’ll be motivated after a 3-1 road loss to the first-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Despite Miami’s strong play in recent weeks, I have to give the edge to the Athletic at home.
Hartford Athletic 2 – Miami FC 1
WHO: Miami FC (8-6-2, 26 pts) vs. Hartford Athletic (7-4-2, 24 pts)
WHEN: Wednesday, August 4 // 7:00 pm EST
WHERE: Dillon Stadium (Hartford, CT)
WATCH: ESPN+ in the US, YouTube internationally.
- Miami FC – Robert Kcira. Suspended (Red Card vs Battery).
- Hartford Athletic – None