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.

Miami FC To Debut In USL Playoffs

Time to get excited. Miami FC finally take their place in the USL Championship playoffs. After a good showing in a really strong Atlantic division, Miami were handed a very tough opening match on the road against Louisville City FC.

It was exactly four years ago today that Miami played their last playoff game at Division 2 level. Despite being the #1 seed in the 2017 NASL playoffs things did not go according to plan. The green machine of New York Cosmos ground out a 0-0 draw at Riccardo Silva Stadium and took their place in the 2017 Soccer Bowl, winning 6-5 on penalties.

As many will remember, Miami FC were exiled to the NPSL (essentially Division 4) after the collapse of the NASL. There are fond playoff memories from these two years with back-to-back playoff national championship wins in 2018 and 2019. We did get some revenge against the Cosmos in the 2019 final. Following that there was also a brief stint in the NISA Showcase. We won that too.

So it’s been a winding road back to a playoff game at this level. How did we get here this season? Paul Dalglish has done a great job with his sweeping changes after a disappointing debut season in the USL last year. The brand of soccer has remained the same. A technical passing game which is fun to watch and sets up great opportunities for the attacking weapons in the final third of the pitch. We’ve seen some great goals.

The wholesale changes included a squad revamp and this is where the technical staff have really excelled with some fine recruitment work. From top to bottom this roster can compete for the championship. Connor Sparrow has been a revelation in goal. A true sweeper-keeper who the defenders have to confidence to use as an option for a pass when under pressure.

Regular center back pairing Paco Craig and Callum Chapman-Page have developed a great understanding. Captain Craig is a classy and experienced player who lifts everyone around him. It’s Callum’s second stint with the club after a year over in Tulsa in 2020. Callum has matured into a quality footballer and is an imposing figure at the back but has also managed to get among the goals. These two will need to be at the top of their game vs Louisville.

Paco is one of three players who will be returning to the Lou having previously played there. Another is Speedy Williams, a vital cog in midfield alongside Bolu Akinyode. These are another two players who are key elements of the Dalglishball system.

It’s going to be a night to remember for Rich Ballard. The third of the returnees to Louisville. Ballard was born and raised in the Lou. Played college soccer there and won back-to-back USL Cups alongside Craig and Williams. In fact Miami FC is the only non-Lou club Ballard has ever played for. Rich has been converted to an attacking full back and it’s tough to know who Dalglish will go for in this playoff game. Ballard and Sean McFarlane Jr are jostling for the start at right back. On the left Löbe and Baggio are options. Experienced Italian Luca Antonelli has also travelled with the squad. It’s a real headache for Paul. Who do you start?

We haven’t even talked about Othello Bah. He’s made an exceptional contribution this season playing in every position down the left, scoring four goals including vital strikes against the Rowdies and the Riverhounds. Bah is now 9th on the list of all-time appearances for Miami FC and even his national team took notice. Othello played for Liberia in a friendly.

Team selection doesn’t get any easier at the other end of the field. Club captain Ariel Martinez has a gift of talent a notch above most USL players. At the age of 35 he is still a stellar option for a start. So is the youngest player in the team Lamar Walker. The exciting Jamaican forward has progressed really well through 2021. Both these guys can operate in a central attacking role.

Nijah Reid, Pierre Da Silva, Billy Forbes and of course Christiano Francois could all play. Newcomers Josh Perez and Chris Cortez are available too. It’s a real treasure chest of attacking talent, fire in the box like matchsticks. If I was a LouCity defender I might have trouble sleeping tonight…

Though Louisville City will feel they are favorites. They have home advantage. The weather will be freezing. They won the Central Division and while it’s maybe not quite as tough a group as the Atlantic, LouCity were 4th overall in the USL regular season. They also knocked off Birmingham Legion 1-0 on the road in their last game. A result that cemented that top spot in the Central Division.

At the end of the day this is cup soccer and the result is tough to predict. If we circle back to that NASL playoff we know very well that a less-fancied team can come to a difficult environment and get a result. For fans of the club, the game is a deserved reward for sticking with the team through the NPSL exile and the forgettable 2020 season. Might we see penalties again? As much as that would be torture for all involved it may be the outcome.

What is a certainty is a great game of soccer. Both these teams started the season with hopes of an appearance in the final. One of them will be drowning their sorrows on Saturday night. Let’s hope it’s not the Orange and Blue. The USL Championship playoff encounter between Miami FC and Louisville City FC can be watched on ESPN+ in the US and free on YouTube around the world. Kick off is set for 8pm ET on Saturday, 6th of November. VAMOS MIAMI!

The Miami FC vs. Charlotte Independence: Previewing the Match

The Miami FC vs. Charlotte Independence

Once again Miami FC will be racking up the airmiles as a two-stop road trip takes them all the way to Memphis 901 FC but first up is a stop in North Carolina to take on Charlotte Independence on Saturday evening.

Miami (11-6-4, 37 pts) keep on rolling. Six games in August and they went unbeaten with four wins and two draws. Though some players will once again be missing due to international call ups that busy run showed that there is the quality in the squad to come in and keep the performances at the required levels.

The Independence played one game less than FC in August but still put together a creditable two wins, two draws and one loss. That L came against the Rowdies at Al Lang so there is no shame in that small slip up.

Know Your Enemy: Charlotte Independence

Good form is keeping Charlotte in the running for a playoff place. Miami, along with the Rowdies and Riverhounds, have daylight between them and fourth placed Charleston. Charlotte are not far behind the Battery though. Just one point adrift in sixth place equal on points with Hartford.

Up front Charlotte will be looking to Dane Kelly and Irvin Parra to solve the solid Miami backline. Jamaican Kelly has bagged seven goals this season but don’t count out the quality of Parra either. Another player to watch is Uruguayan midfielder Enzo Martinez. Enzo is a leader on the team and is always up for the battle with Miami.

Miami and Charlotte have similar defensive records. Keeper Austin Pack has proved to be a safe pair of hands since taking over duties between the sticks after an injury to starting GK Brandon Miller. Hugh Roberts is always a force to be reckoned with at center back and the Independence also boast a Premier League winner in defense. Former Leicester City player Christian Fuchs having signed on recently.

Keys To A Miami FC Victory

Miami will have to make do without Lamar Walker and Speedy Williams who are off on duty with Jamaica. New signing Joshua Perez is also away with El Salvador. That means a possible start for youngster Jahshaun Anglin.

The formidable defensive partnership of Paco Craig and Callum Chapman-Page is now on 270 minutes without conceding a goal, three clean sheets in the last three games. If they can keep that up then it could be a long night for the Charlotte attack.

Just two players have scored Miami’s last five goals. Lamar Walker getting two and Billy Forbes three. Walker won’t be playing but Christiano Francois will be looking to get back among the goals. It won’t be easy for the forwards in this game but the quality is clearly there to get a goal or two.


Miami FC have never lost to Charlotte Independence and it’s hard to see that changing tomorrow. Home field advantage might have Charlotte feeling they can get a point at least from this game. But it’s a big ask to halt the Miami juggernaut right now. One goal might settle this. 

Charlotte Independence 1 – The Miami FC 2

Game Notes

WHO: Charlotte Independence (8-8-3, 27 pts) vs. The Miami FC (11-6-4, 37 points)

WHEN: Saturday, September 4 || 7:00 pm EST

WHERE: American Legion Memorial Stadium (Charlotte, NC)

WATCH: ESPN+ in the US, YouTube Internationally

Reasons To Be Cheerful

It’s been a weekend off for Miami FC and that’s something the club’s players and staff have very much earned over the past six weeks. Since beating Charlotte Independence at home at the end of June the boys from the 305 have been pretty unstoppable. Eight games in six weeks, four at home, four on the road. Miami FC have lost just one, winning five and drawing the other two.

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 1.

Miami FC are back. I know they never went away, but they are arguably back to the levels last seen at the end of the 2017 NASL season. The road back to this point had twists and turns that probably no other club in the USA will ever experience. A prolific exile to the NPSL with back-to-back national championships and a brief stint in NISA (and more silverware) before the jump to the USL championship and a return to Division 2 soccer.

Paul Dalglish and his coaching staff are now replicating the form of the NASL days. What’s more impressive is that they are doing so with intelligent recruitment of good young players from around North America. That, for my money, deserves more kudos than Alessandro Nesta’s achievements with an expensively assembled roster of aggressive purchases from rival teams and global imports.

Anyone who follows Miami FC will have a special place in their heart for that 2017 NASL team. Indeed there is much love for the players who stuck with the club in the NPSL and those who pulled on a jersey in NISA and the inaugural USL season. But finally it feels like everyone can look forward.

The soccer the team is playing is really good. Of course results matter but getting results the right way has always been a part of Miami FC’s identity. It’s a talented team that likes to play out of the back, control the midfield and get the ball to the attacking weapons to make a difference. Put simply, it’s fun to watch. Especially when you are picking up points and winning games.

Reasons to be cheerful? Fans are back in the stadium, the team are getting stuck into opponents and winning games and there is a good challenge going on for a playoff spot in a D2 league. It’s been a long wait to get that back. It is back. Long may it continue.

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 2.

Oh but wait there’s more. Yes winning games and getting into the playoffs are important. But we mentioned having an identity. That’s more than nice passing patterns on the field. It includes the direction coming from the team’s leadership and on that score the arrival of CEO Michael Williamson has been important. The front office staff can take a lot of credit here also. Everyone from the social media crew to the support and operations staff. A lot of these people stayed through the uncertainty or signed up because continuing to build the club is something worth working towards. It feels like there is more clarity in the club’s voice off the field. Maybe it’s the smelling salts…

Coming back to the team, there was a positive reaction to the return of Ariel Martinez to Miami FC. This isn’t just because he’s a fantastic player. It’s because he is the embodiment of what this team means to those who have stuck with it. Ariel is captain for a reason and I think you can definitely see his passion for the club rub off on the players around him. He’s hungry for this team, sorry HIS team, to be successful.

You can see this hunger throughout the roster. You can see it in the determination of Junior Palacios, a player who fought probably more than any other to be on this team and will run through brick walls for his team mates no matter what position he’s picked in. You can see it in the standards goalkeeper Connor Sparrow holds his defense to. The endless running of Christiano Francois. Paco Craig has played every single game of the season so far and his consistency inspires the players around him to match that. Pretty important players were lost to international call ups and those that stepped in took their chance with both hands. The good form held. Character.

The character that defines Miami FC and the identity being cultivated is another reason to be cheerful. From the executive leadership who have the hardest job of selling this team and making it a success off the field against all odds, to the players who do understand the importance of the badge on their jersey to the supporters who never quit on them.

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3.

A return to form in the USL and the continuing story of Miami FC are great things. It’s why the club just turned in two great performances in one week. In the recent good run there has been that one loss, a 2—0 defeat at the hands of Hartford Athletic. Having lost that game Miami completed a comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2 vs Charleston Battery at home with 10 men. Paul Dalglish summed that game up perfectly to his players. Everything went against them and they still found a way to win.

The USL’s fixture computer was kind enough to give Miami a do-over up in Connecticut against Hartford after that win. They went there with just one day’s rest, travelled up the day after and came home with a point after a 1-1 draw thanks to Othello Bah. Their first points against Hartford who are one of the best teams in this year’s USL.

Miami FC currently lie 3rd in the USL Championship Atlantic division with a six point cushion to the playoff cut off point at the halfway point of the season. Their next two games are on the road vs table topping Pittsburgh Riverhounds and then a long trip to face Austin Bold.

The next home game? Why that would be against who else but Hartford Athletic on Sunday 22nd August. Tickets available here. Come and add your voice. In case you missed it, in-form Miami FC are currently playing very good football…

Hartford Heartbreak for Miami FC

Miami FC’s five match unbeaten run in the USL Championship came to an end on Saturday evening. Having finally slain the yellow and green monster from Tampa Bay this month, the boys from FIU had the final boss to contend with to complete an undefeated July. A long trip to play a strong Hartford Athletic side. They came up just short.

Hartford had the better of the early play. In fact Miami were almost caught cold from the kick off. Hartford’s Sebastian Elney, a handy striker who hails from Boca Raton, sprinted on to a long ball and almost floated it over Connor Sparrow and into the net.

Miami weathered the early storm and began to make some inroads into the Hartford half. But with 30 minutes gone Miami failed to deal with a free kick and an unmarked Alex Lara tapped home Hartford’s first from close range.

Coach Paul Dalglish had returned to the technical area for this game after a recent Covid-related absence. He was forced into an unplanned first half change when Pierre Da Silva picked up a knock. Jashaun Anglin was sent on as his replacement.

Miami almost levelled things up when Ariel Martinez seized on an error by Hartford keeper Jeff Caldwell. The ball came to Ariel at an awkward height and he couldn’t find a finish. 1-0 to the hosts at half time.

Chances did come in the second half. Baggio and Christiano combined in the area. Desperate defending from Yacoubou denied them. Martinez had a free kick well saved by Caldwell. Paco Craig and Callum Chapman-Page nearly got one back but neither could force home a loose ball in the area. Miami did everything but score in the second half. Hartford’s rearguard held firm for a clean sheet.

The match ended 2-0. Substitute Conor McGlynn added a second for the hosts with a classy finish from outside the area. Hartford now have two wins from two games vs Miami and have shut them out both times. Paul and his team don’t have much time to dwell on this. They return to Hartford on Wednesday 4th of August for a rematch. However the recent good form means Miami still lie 4th of eight teams in the Atlantic Division in the USL championship.

The season is just about at the halfway point so to be sat in the last playoff spot is something positive to build on. Miami can cement this position on Sunday 1st August when they take on 5th placed Charleston Battery at home. It’s a playoff six pointer and with fans now allowed back in the stadium you can enjoy this game up close and personal. Tickets available here. As always you can follow the game from home on ESPN+ (or YouTube outside the US).

Super Subs Give Miami FC A Win Over Charlotte

Miami FC kicked off a two game home stand with a 2-1 victory over Charlotte Independence at Riccardo Silva Stadium Saturday evening.

The one goal margin might suggest a close game but in truth the Orange and Blue turned in a complete performance. Charlotte scored from a direct free kick right on the edge of the area just before the hour mark to tie things up. It made for an exciting finish but it was their only effort on target. The rest of the match was about the home team.

South Florida Soccer Round Up – May 14th to 19th

The Miami FC celebrates a goal against New York Red Bulls II. A recap of the South Florida Soccer world for the week of May 15, 2021.

There was plenty of reasons for soccer fans in and around the South Florida soccer world to be happy about this week.

The Miami FC got things off to a great start with a win away at New York Red Bulls II on Friday night. The game’s only goal came when Billy Forbes clipped a lovely ball through for János Löbe. The full back centered for Ballard who had his shot blocked but Jamaican international Speedy Williams rifled home a smart finish from the edge of the box.