Lee Ifans
Lee Ifans

Lee Ifans is a former amateur player and expert in the game of football. Originally from Wales, fate has brought Lee to the Magic City. You can contact Lee at ifans.mcs@gmail.com.

Classy FC Brush Aside Atlanta United 2

Miami FC turned in a dominant performance on Sunday evening sending Atlanta United 2 home empty handed. The Orange and Blue signed off for 2020 with a flourish, an emphatic 3-1 win.

Following the goal fest on Wednesday where FC bested Charleston Battery 4-3 it was clear to see confidence had returned to the Miami camp. It’s been a commodity sorely lacking this season. Much is made in soccer these days of stats, systems, tactics and so on. But footballers thrive when they play with a smile on their face. Too often this season there have been furrowed brows and long faces in Miami FC jerseys. Not last night.

Even when the predictable happened and ATLUTD2 scored an early goal it didn’t seem to rattle the home team. Ndam was beaten to a long ball by Jackson Conway who finished well, Pais no chance. This has been familiar territory for Miami this season but instead of slouching shoulders and heads dropping, the players were encouraging each other and stuck to their game plan.

Mark Pais averted disaster again minutes after the goal. Dealing well with Amir Bashti when the Atlanta #10 had a great chance to double the lead in a one-on-one. Although both sides were out of playoff contention a long time ago there was something to play for in this game. Atlanta knew a win or draw would give them 3rd place in USL Championship Group H. Miami needed all three points.

So with the motivation of that third place spot it was no surprise that the game was physically competitive. Over the course of the game referee Alex Billeter dished out eight yellow cards. On the half hour mark she awarded Miami a penalty. Prince Saydee tore into the area and was brought down by ATLUTD2 keeper Ben Lungaard. It was a tough decision for the ref. Lundgaard got a little of the ball but also sent Prince flying. There was enough there to give the penalty. Romario Williams made no mistake and fired in an excellent penalty kick to level things up.

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From that point Miami controlled the majority of game with their signature brand of soccer. Bezecourt and Velasquez ran the show. Their styles contrast slightly. Bezecourt never stops running and drives the game forward whenever he gets the opportunity. Velasquez drifts around, demanding possession then toying with his opponents. The ball seemingly on a string attached to his foot. Often he would open up space with a trademark dribble for his team mates to run into. Both are given the freedom to operate by the reliable partnership of Harrison Heath and Tomi Granitto behind them.

Atlanta were limited to counter attacks, set pieces and crosses from out wide. They had no answer for Miami’s midfield. Five minutes into the second half Miami took the lead. Prince Saydee collected the ball from Granitto and went on a mazy solo run which he finished off in style. Prince’s exciting wing play has been a highlight of the season and if he can find this kind of end product consistently, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in 2021.

Pais added another heroic save to keep his team ahead. Just getting a fingertip to a point blank header by Bashti. Harrison Heath brushed the woodwork with a nice curling effort. It felt like there might be one more goal in the game. Thiaw and Gonzalez entered the game for Williams and Prince. Fresh legs for the last twenty minutes. Thiaw had a chance for Miami’s third when another penalty was awarded for a seemingly tame push in the area. Thiaw sent his kick down the middle and Lundgaard got a foot to it to keep it out.

Miami’s third goal came in stoppage time. Velasquez capping his performance with a well taken goal that he both started off and finished. A lovely little move involving both the substitutes Thiaw and Gonzalez. The whistle went and Miami FC head into the winter with some positives to work on after a difficult season. It’s taken some time but it looks like Miami FC are getting to grips with the USL. If the team can replicate the form of the last two games week in week out they can be a force to be reckoned with in 2021. They just need to come out of the gates next time with the swagger they’ve found over the last week.

Miami Resurrection

Miami FC turned the tables on Charleston Battery Wednesday evening. A four goal blitz in the second half gave the Orange and Blue a 4-3 win few would have seen coming before kick off.

The match did start with a similar script to most of Miami FC’s season. They struggled to compete with the visitors initially. Perhaps Charleston were enjoying the benefit of their rest at the weekend following the cancellation of their game vs Loudoun United. Barely ten minutes had gone when Miami were caught flat-footed and Nicque Daley turned in a loose ball in the six-yard box for Battery’s first.

Miami FC keeper Mark Pais once again came to his team’s rescue. Bravely denying Daley in a one-on-one that kept the deficit at one goal. It would be a missed chance that proved costly for Nicque and the Battery by the end of the evening. Daley should have had a hat trick. He scored his second when Hassan Ndam allowed him to wriggle free on the right. The Jamaican powered towards the Miami FC goal and made no mistake with the finish. Half time, the score two-nil.

It’s been a difficult season for Miami FC fans but those who stuck with this game were about to be rewarded for their patience. Indeed anyone who was watching the match can’t have complained about the entertainment value of the second half.

With their first meaningful attack of the game Miami got one back. Prince Saydee collected a ball from Marco Franco. He drifted by a Charleston defender and sent a cross low across the area. It didn’t look particularly dangerous. But Velasquez cleverly dummied the ball for the lurking Romario Williams who buried a simple finish from close range. For once, it was Miami’s opponents who were guilty of ball-watching.

Straight away Charleston replied. Robbie Crawford skillfully restoring the Battery’s cushion. That goal knocked Miami off balance for a few minutes but Charleston couldn’t take advantage. Step forward Sebastian Velasquez.

The skillful Colombian #10 has been a wonderful addition to the squad and he can change a game single handed. He’s been unlucky with injuries this season but last night showed everyone what he is capable of. Miami got on the scoresheet again when Velasquez sent in a perfect corner to the back post. Vincent Bezecourt was totally unmarked and was left with an easy header to score his first goal for the club.

Velasquez then put the ball in the net himself. Scoring a fantastic goal, dribbling expertly into the area and finishing from a difficult angle. Again Charleston almost came straight back, substitute Arthur Bosua heading against the bar after a swift Battery counter attack.

When Bezecourt missed an open goal that would have put Miami ahead it increasingly looked like the game would end 3-3. One last twist in the tale. Miguel Gonzalez adding another important goal to his resume with a couple of minutes left in the 90. It wasn’t the prettiest goal. Battery keeper Kuzminsky couldn’t keep his hands on a stinging effort by Prince, who had another great night on the wing. Gonzalez got to the rebound first. His shot was nothing special but caught Kuzminsky off-guard. The Battery defense reacted too slowly and the ball just crossed the line before being cleared. The goal would stand, 4-3 Miami.

That’s how it would finish. The smallest possible margin of victory, a goal that was mere inches over the line. But Miami will take it. A gutting result for Charleston who had control of the group in their hands and threw it away. The last time the Battery let in more than three goals was over a year ago when they got thumped 5-0 by the Rowdies at home.

The second half display was what many expected from Miami FC all season. Now they’ve proved they are capable of it the question is how do they do it on a consistent basis? Signing off with back-to-back wins would be a small victory for the team. One game remains against Atlanta United 2 on Sunday 4th October, kick off 7:30pm, live on ESPN+.

Rowdies Raid Sinks Miami FC On A Stormy Night

Miami FC fell to a third defeat at the hands of Tampa Bay Rowdies this season on Saturday evening. After a long weather delay at Riccardo Silva Stadium the visitors left with all three points after a 1-0 win.

Othello Bah made a return to the lineup at left back. Marco Franco and Sebastian Velasquez were also handed starts with Brian James and Janos Löbe rested. Goalkeeper Mark Pais picked up where he left off after his wonderful performance to claim a clean sheet in the last game. Two big saves early on kept the scores level.

Rowdies defender Jordan Scarlett went into the book in the first fifteen minutes following a reckless challenge on Vincent Bezecourt. The easiest yellow card referee Natalie Simon will ever give in her career and another ref, another day, he could have been off. Bezecourt and Velasquez have been marked men all season so it’s something they’ve learned to deal with. The classy Frenchman picked himself up and turned in another great performance.

FC came closest to opening the scoring when Bezecourt and Thiaw combined to set up Granitto. Granitto spurned the chance at the edge of the six-yard box, sending a snap shot wide. It wasn’t an easy finish though, the ball came at him quickly.

The Rowdies got their goal and again it came thanks to poor defending by Miami FC at a corner. The ball was swung over, Scarlett lost his marker at the back post and headed it across for Sebastian Guenzatti to finish off. Bezecourt had a chance to equalize right after, firing a decent effort just over the bar.

Tampa Bay could have got the killer second goal. Kyle Murphy wasted a chance just before half time and Leonardo Fernandes had a powerful effort blocked by a brave Tomi Granitto at the start of the second half. They did have the ball in the net after a nice move in the 53rd minute, the assistant referee’s flag coming to Miami’s rescue. A very close offside call. Miami went looking for an equalizer bringing Romario Williams on at the hour mark. The Rowdies defense is so strong there was just no way through. Repeated attempts to pick the lock Tampa Bay had on their goal came to nothing. Another deserved clean sheet for the visitors. 

The match ended 1-0. Another battling Miami FC performance undone by a defensive mistake. More worrying is that Miami have now gone 400 minutes of soccer without scoring a goal. They have to play Charleston Battery next who are just as good at the back as the Rowdies. Battery also have the advantage of having a weekend off, their game with Loudoun United was cancelled due to Loudoun’s multiple cases of Covid-19.

Miami FC vs Charleston Battery kicks off at 7:30pm on Wednesday 30th September. Watch live on ESPN+.

Gutsy FC Hold Independence

After an improved performance against Charleston, Miami FC went one better in Charlotte. A creditable defensive display saw the Orange and Blue record their first clean sheet of the season in a 0-0 draw with the Independence.

While the scoreboard might have read 0-0 at the end of the game there was no shortage of action on the pitch. It was a classic case of the entertaining scoreless tie.

A fit-again Prince Saydee got the start on the left wing and Paul Dalglish switched back to a back four in defense. Hassan Ndam partnered by Lance Rozeboom in the middle with Löbe and Sam outside them.

Independence were looking for a win to take them to the top of Group G and made a positive start. Miami did a good job of restricting them to long range efforts and keeper Mark Pais made a confident start to the game with a couple of impressive saves early on.

Miami were playing on the counter and Prince was the main outlet. One silky run saw the Liberian shoot wide. Just after the 30 minute mark he latched on to a long Harrison Heath pass, sprinted forward and played a perfect ball to Granitto that the Miami #8 fired a fraction over.

Pais was beaten by the Charlotte attack both sides of half time but fortunately for FC the two goals were flagged for offside. The second half was dominated by the home side but Miami held firm. Former Florida Soccer Soldier Valentin Sabella came closest to breaking the deadlock, unleashing an incredible strike on Pais’s goal that thwacked against the post.

Backs to the wall, Miami did an awesome job of defending as a team. It was an organized and committed effort and when the final whistle came no one could deny that they deserved a point from the game. Confidence is boosted and the team return to Miami to play their three remaining games at home in Riccardo Silva Stadium.

Next up are Florida rivals Tampa Bay Rowdies. Kick off is 7:30pm on Saturday 26th September. Watch live on ESPN+.

Miami FC Fire Blank Against Battery

Franco-Battery

Miami FC crashed to a second consecutive defeat on Sunday evening. A clinical Charleston Battery side piled more misery on the Orange and Blue in a 2-0 win for the home side.

In their previous five games, Battery’s stingy defense had conceded just two goals. A defensive record that puts Miami’s to shame. FC did a good job early on in the game. Neither side had much of a sniff of a goal but Miami looked comfortable. It was a lapse of concentration that led to Charleston’s first. Busy forward Zeiko Lewis found a huge gap between Brenton Griffiths and Hassan Ndam. Picked out perfectly by Leland Archer he had plenty to do with the finish and obliged with a classy chip past Mark Pais.

Miami almost fired in an instant response. Vincent Bezecourt’s driven shot unluckily hitting a team mate, his header from the rebound just went wide. Charleston should have had a second midway through the half. Lewis again finding space before sending a great ball into the six yard box that striker Arthur Bosua somehow failed to convert.

It was 2-0 just before the 45 minutes were up. A loose pass into the left channel by the Battery was dealt with far too casually. Under pressure Griffiths sent a poor backpass to Pais. The keeper had no chance. Nicque Daley snuck in to collect his third goal of the season. Again Miami might have pulled one back straight away. Hassan Ndam heading wide from a corner in injury time.

A scrappy second half served up few highlights save for the welcome return of tricky winger Prince Saydee from injury and an acrobatic stop by Pais to prevent a third for Battery. Charleston’s choice to safeguard their 2-0 win with pragmatic rather than pretty soccer might have made for a drab second half, but it’s a huge part of why they clinched the playoffs and still have first-placed Tampa Bay Rowdies nervously looking over their shoulders.

Two losses in a row. Two games without scoring. Six goals conceded in 180 minutes of soccer. Miami FC don’t have long to dwell on it though. Next up is Charlotte Independence, again on the road, on Wednesday. Kick off 7pm, watch on ESPN+.

Lackluster FC Punished By The Legion

In a forgettable night at Riccardo Silva Stadium, Miami FC suffered a crushing 4-0 defeat at the hands of Birmingham Legion.

The match was a completely different proposition to the 2-1 victory over Atlanta at the weekend. Legion are top of Group G and the 4th best team in the combined Eastern Conference standings. In the first ten minutes of the game you could see they were a well-prepared side who like to play the ball.

Nevertheless Miami looked comfortable after absorbing a little early pressure. They grew into the game up to the hydration break and it looked like a fascinating hour of soccer was in front of us. It was, but for all the wrong reasons.

FC shipped three goals in ten minutes before half time. If you conceded one of these goals in a game you wouldn’t be happy. All were preventable and highlight the current weaknesses in Miami FC’s game. The fourth goal after half time was comical, but if you play soccer long enough your team will concede a goal like that. The damage had already been done and it’s pointless to bring up individual errors. A 4-0 loss equals Miami FC’s worst ever performance on the pitch. The previous four goal hammering had been at the hands of the Cosmos in the 2016 NASL fall season. This is a performance that the squad have to accept responsibility for as a whole. A point made by Paul Dalglish himself in his post game interview.

The statistics paint a grim picture. Miami FC controlled 69% of possession, completed 374 of 441 attempted passes to the opponents 151 from 194 but managed just two shots on target compared to Legion’s seven. There is much work to do to fix Miami’s tepid attack and calamitous defense. But these stats prove there is at least the bedrock of technique to build upon. It is worth noting that the players had clearly been asked to deliver a response in the half time team talk and they did do that. The second half performance showed much more commitment than the first.

Five games remain for Miami FC in 2020. With this mauling behind them all anyone can ask for is for the team to pick themselves up, compete in every minute of the upcoming encounters and try to sign off a difficult 2020 with a few good performances and hopefully a win or two. It will be a long winter but 2020 has been a valuable lesson. It can only be hoped it has been learned when 2021 comes around.

Miami FC will travel to Charleston Battery next. Kick off 6pm, Sunday 20th live on ESPN+.

The Miami FC records first USL road victory, beats ATL UTD 2

The Miami FC

The Miami FC finally recorded an away win in the USL Championship with a 2-1 victory over ATL UTD 2, thanks to a second-half strike by Miguel Gonzalez.

The main conductor of the attacking play in the draw vs Charleston Battery, Sebastian Velasquez, didn’t make the trip. Possibly Paul Dalglish did not want to risk him against Atlanta’s no-nonsense tackling. Lloyd Sam dropped to the bench. In came Gonzalez and Griffiths. Again a back three was deployed with Hassan Ndam as sweeper.

Atlanta set out to disrupt Miami’s possession and gave no quarter in the 50/50s. Jalen Markey was bundled over more than once but despite the persistent fouling from the home side, the ref kept his cards in his pocket.

Miami stood up to the physical challenge from the hosts and took the lead when Romario Williams tapped in a rebound after Atlanta keeper Ben Lundgaard spilled a Tomas Granitto free kick. Williams looked to be in the mood for a goal after failing to find the net since the 2-1 over Charlotte last month. His movement was good, he was taking players on with confidence. A great night for the number 9.

In a familiar story for FC fans, Atlanta equalized minutes later. The Miami defense failed to clear a loose ball in the area, Ajani Fortune firing home a great effort. Miami have been much improved of late, especially at the back, but this was an echo of past collapses. Thankfully they steadied themselves and made it to half time tied up 1-1.

Sometimes you just feel a game is going the way of one of the teams. Last night it was our turn and Miami wouldn’t be denied three vital points. Miguel Gonzalez was the hero of the hour with a crisp finish from the edge of the area after a corner early in the second half. It’s two goals in two games for Miguel now. His confident, first-time finish for the goal sums up Miami FC’s renaissance. A bit of belief and swagger is coming back.

ATLUTD2 had a couple of chances to get level and even hit the crossbar, however Miami’s defense held firm. Keeper Mark Pais turned in a commanding performance. Mark controls his area so well and came bravely out of his goal to snuff out an Atlanta chance on the hour mark. Centerback Hassan Ndam was impressive too, as the Cameroonian provided a key block late in the game to ensure an important victory for the Orange and Blue.

Although unlikely, the win means Miami still have a mathematical chance to catch second place in Group H, Charleston Battery. Next up is the “Magic City Derby,” as the Birmingham Legion will come to Riccardo Silva Stadium on Wednesday at 7:30pm, watch on ESPN+.

Miami FC Tie Charleston Battery With A Confident Display Of Soccer

On a perfect evening for soccer at Riccardo Silva Stadium, Miami FC shared a point with the visiting Charleston Battery.

After two losses on the road the Orange and Blue were probably relieved to get back to familiar surroundings. There was some unfamiliarity on the team sheet though. A welcome return for livewire Sebastian Velasquez to the lineup, Lloyd Sam suiting up for the injured Othello Bah and a first start for defender Jalen Markey. Hassan Ndam anchored the defense with Marco Franco and Markey playing in a three man back line, wing backs Sam and Janos Löbe given the freedom to push forward.

FC had the ball in the net early on. Romario Williams finishing off a low cross by Löbe, but Löbe was narrowly offside when released by Vincent Bezecourt. Miami’s football looked confident and was flowing freely meaning Charleston spent the first 45 pinned back in their own half. Velasquez was outstanding, taking on players all over the field. Miami might have felt they should have made their dominance count. It was however a huge positive that a defense that has had a nasty habit of conceding weak early goals this season for once looked rock solid.

It was all the more galling when Battery took the lead just after the half. Stavros Zarokostas crashing a perfect drive home from well outside the area. Pais had no chance.

Charleston battened down the hatches, Miami poured forward. Velasquez had a shot turned onto the post, Williams put the rebound against the bar and at the third time of asking Bezecourt blazed over with an open goal at his mercy. It felt like Miami just weren’t going to score. They had a let off too when AJ Paterson powered a header onto the crossbar not long after.

With five minutes remaining Miami were level. Miguel Gonzalez’s name will go on the scoresheet but credit for the goal lies with Mo Thiaw and Tomi Granitto. Thiaw took possession calmly in the area and fed it back to Granitto. The El Salvadorean unleashed a trademark piledriver which ricocheted off Gonzalez into the back of the net.

An ill-tempered finish to the game marred an otherwise splendid night of entertainment. A draw was probably fair on both sides. Miami might have hoped for more but the creditable overall performance will give the players, staff and fans a little spring in their step over the remainder of the long weekend. Especially as it came against a very good Battery side.

FC travel to ATLUTD2 on Saturday 12th September. Kick off 7:30pm ET on ESPN+.

 

Hard-Working FC Come Up Short In St. Pete

The Rowdies piled more misery onto Miami FC as the Orange and Blue went down 3-0 in St. Petersburg on Wednesday evening.

Interim head coach Paul Dalglish selected a lineup with some changes. This was partly due to injuries, Prince Saydee and Brian James still not fit enough to start, but also Mo Thiaw was given the nod as center forward over Romario Williams. There would be even more work for the medical team. After a tight start to the game full back Othello Bah was forced off after 25 minutes to be replaced by Lloyd Sam.

The game plan couldn’t be faulted. Playing against the leaders of group H, Miami chose to choke up the midfield and press their opponents. With the strength of the options on the bench it felt like getting through the first 45 on equal terms then opening up in the second half would be the best option to get something out of the game.

The resolute defense was punctured just before half time. Lloyd Sam had brought down a Rowdies player on the edge of the area. Leo Fernandes sent in a great direct free kick which was well-saved by Bryan Gammiero, palmed behind for a corner. From that corner Rowdies defender Jordan Scarlett lost his marker and headed in from close range.

Miami came out with a positive approach in the second half and on the hour mark, Williams, Granitto and Velasquez were subbed in. But before that trio could get into the game it was 2-0. Once again it was from a set piece. A free kick sent in to a crowded back post, the ball found it’s way back across the face of goal and was finished off by Tejada.

Vincent Bezecourt was one player who kept fighting all night. He almost reduced the deficit to one after a mazy run right through the Rowdies but he couldn’t find the finish.

A late penalty added a third to the Rowdies score and that was that. In the end it came down to set pieces. Miami FC will attempt to get back to winning ways on Saturday evening, 7pm against Charleston Battery. Watch on ESPN+.

Battery Power Too Much For Miami

pic courtesy: live5news.com

Miami FC finished a punishing run of four games in 11 days with a 3-1 loss on the road to Charleston Battery on Wednesday evening. With both sides having a busy August the game was predictably cautious in the opening exchanges. FC head coach Paul Dalglish had already been forced to shuffle his pack after injuries to Brian James and Sebastian Velasquez. So it was hugely disappointing when they lost Prince Saydee with barely ten minutes gone.

Goalkeeper Bryan Gammiero had just plucked a Battery corner out of the South Carolinian sky and hurled it into the path of Prince. Great distribution. But with a huge gap to run into the Miami FC winger pulled up clutching his hamstring. Prince couldn’t continue and Dalglish was forced into an early substitution, sending on Janos Löbe as a replacement.

Miami had started well but the break in play seemed to work in favor of the home team. Charleston grew into the game from that point, taking the lead through Logan Gdula who lashed a rocket home off the underside of the bar that gave Gammiero no chance. It was 2-0 not long after when Romario Piggott capitalized on a poor clearance by the FC defense and slotted home. You have to say the second goal was preventable and it fits into a worryingly familiar pattern of goals conceded by Miami FC which would be filed under ‘sloppy defending’.

Nevertheless this team is prepared to fight for a comeback and if Paul Dalglish gave them a few stern words at half time it seemed to do the trick. Romario Williams got a piledriver on target after a couple of minutes but it was well saved by Joe Kuzminsky in the Charleston goal. A couple of feet either side and it would have been in.

If Miami FC came out flying then it seemed The Battery were still in the dressing room and the Orange and Blue took advantage. Löbe found space down the left but cleverly squared the ball early instead of going for the line. Miguel Gonzalez got on the end of it, out-muscled a defender and finished well beyond the diving Kuzminsky.

It looked like the match might turn back in Miami’s favor. The next goal would be vital. But it was Charleston who scored it. Dante Marini just getting the ball past a wrong-footed Gammiero after Paterson had picked out target man Arthur Bosua in the box. The two goal lead was restored.

Miami went looking for another goal of their own and Charleston were happy to sit back and let them have possession. The triangle on the left of Bah, Löbe and Bezecourt, who again was the most dangerous creative outlet all game, looked to be the most likely avenue to a chance. Lloyd Sam came on and couldn’t squeeze a second home from a tight angle. Another substitute Harrison Heath sent a low shot wide. Hassan Ndam had a great chance from a corner that he couldn’t get on target.

3-1 at the end. Miami FC have seven days rest before traveling to Tampa again for another pop at the Rowdies. 7:30pm, September 2nd on ESPN+.