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.
50' – MIAMI FC GOAL!!!! Prince Saydee's 🚀 puts us up 2-1 early in the second half. pic.twitter.com/XXr9K1T63I
— The Miami FC (@TheMiamiFC) October 5, 2020
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.