NASL

The Miami FC v Charlotte Independence: Previewing The Match

If there’s one dark horse that could stir up trouble for Miami FC (12-6-6, 42 points) in the final month of the regular season, it’s the Charlotte Independence. While Miami is essentially a lock to clinch its first USL Championship playoff berth, they may have to watch their back lest Charlotte overtake them. 

The Independence are tightening their grip on the fourth and final playoff place in the Atlantic Division.  Riding a three-game winning streak, Charlotte has put a seven-point cushion between themselves and Charleston and Hartford. And a Charlotte victory Wednesday night would shrink the gap between the Independence and third-place Miami to a mere two points… with Charlotte still holding a match in hand.   

Know Your Enemy: Charlotte Independence

Since Miami fought back to earn a 2-2 draw at home against the Charlotte Independence (11-8-4, 37 pts) on Sept. 4, Charlotte has caught fire. The Independence haven’t allowed a goal since that match, outscoring their opponents 8-0 during their three-game win streak.

French midfielder Sylvain Marveaux has played a huge role in Charlotte’s incredible turnaround this season. Since joining the club in late June, the 35-year-old has tallied four goals and three assists. His Premier League and Ligue 1 experience has transferred well to the United States thus far.   

Meanwhile, forward Irvin Parra continues to wreak havoc on opposing defenses, leading the team with 12 goals so far this season. In Charlotte’s last outing, Parra scored the game-winner in the 81st minute in a 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Sept. 18.   

Goalkeeper Austin Pack appears to have won the trust of Head Coach Mike Jeffries and he’s earned three straight clean sheets, thanks in large part to a solid backline in front of him led by defender Christian Fuchs.  

Keys To A Miami Victory

Miami’s backline will have its hands full now that Charlotte has a plethora of weapons on the attack. Defender Paco Craig has been excellent all season long, and he made a potential game-saving clearance this past weekend against Charleston that may have single-handedly kept Miami’s unbeaten streak alive. 

Craig and the rest of the backline will need to keep the traffic away from goalkeeper Connor Sparrow if the club wants to keep that streak going. They will need to keep close tabs on Irvin Parra, who scored the 

Forward Ariel Martinez returned to action this past weekend after missing a handful of games with an injury and immediately made his impact help. Martinez provided the assisted on Lamar Walker’s goal and nearly scored the game-winner in the final minutes against Charleston, but his 88th minute shot went off the crossbar. Can Martinez, who has four goals this season, find the back of the net against Charlotte? 

Against a Charlotte team riding momentum, Miami may want to attack early and often to try to capture an early lead. After all, Miami is 9-2-0 when scoring first this season. Too often during this unbeaten streak, Miami has found themselves playing from behind and forced to settle for draws. 

Prediction

Charlotte has put all the pieces together to make a splash over the final few weeks of the regular season. And Miami is catching them at just the wrong time. Having to travel to the Queen City in the middle of the week against one of the hottest teams in the league is a tough test for Miami. 

The fact that Charlotte is very tough to beat at home (7-1-4) does not bode well for the visitors. This could very well be the end of the road for Miami’s impressive nine-game unbeaten streak.  

Charlotte Independence 2 – Miami FC 1

Game Notes

WHO:  Miami FC (12-6-6, 42 points) vs. Charlotte Independence (11-8-4, 37 pts)

WHEN: Wednesday, September 22 // 7:00 pm EST

WHERE: American Legion Memorial Stadium (Charlotte, NC)

WATCH: ESPN+

DISCIPLINE: 

  • Miami FC – None
  • Charlotte Independence –  None

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.

Prediction

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

The Miami FC vs. New York Red Bulls II: Previewing the Match

The Miami FC hosts New York Red Bulls II on Sunday night.

As the end of summer draws near, Miami FC will try to stay hot as they host the New York Red Bulls II at FIU Stadium on Sunday night. 

Miami (10-6-4, 34 pts) has to be feeling great about where they stand heading into the final two months of the season. After a rocky start to the season, the Blue and Orange have earned at least a point in 10 of their past 11 matches dating back to June 26. That impressive stretch has given Miami FC a legitimate shot at competing for the Atlantic Division crown along with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. 

NYRBII, on the other hand, has headed in the opposite direction. The wheels have come off for the Baby Bulls, who have lost five straight matches heading into Sunday’s match.

The Miami FC vs. Hartford Athletic: Previewing The Match

The Miami FC hosts Hartford Athletic on Sunday night.

They say there’s no place like home, and that’s been true for Miami FC this summer. 

FIU Stadium has been a fortress for the Blue and Orange lately. Miami has won four consecutive home matches dating back to June 26, including two wins against the first-place Tampa Bay Rowdies. But that streak will be put to the test Sunday night when Miami hosts the Hartford Athletic, the only team division rival Miami hasn’t won against this season

This will be the fourth and final regular season meeting between the two clubs. Hartford has dominated the series so far, winning the first two matches with Miami fighting to a draw when the two teams met last on Aug. 4. 

Can Miami FC (9-6-4, 31 points) finally crack the code and earn a victory against the Connecticut-based club? A win could pull Miami neck-and-neck with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh at the top of the table. Another loss to Hartford, however, could put them in a dogfight for the final two playoff spots in the Atlantic Division.  

Know Your Enemy: Hartford Athletic

The playoff race in the Atlantic is heating up, and the Hartford Athletic (8-6-3, 27 pts) are still right in the thick of it. After a hot start to their season, things have leveled off for the Athletic in recent weeks. They’ve lost three of their past five matches, but are coming off a huge 2-1 midweek victory against the Charleston Battery on Aug. 17 to jump back into fourth place. 

As they prepare for the final stretch of the season, the Athletic brought in some reinforcements to help them get to the postseason. They added midfielder Justin Haak on loan from New York City FC and Guatemala international Darwin Lom to bolster their attack up front. Both made their debut in the win over Charleston, adding a much needed jolt to their lineup. 

But Miami still needs to watch out for Danny Barrera, who leads the club with five goals and eight assists. Interestingly, Miami has held him scoreless in their three meetings so far this season. But he has assisted on three of Hartford’s four goals during those matches.  

And then there’s Goalkeeper of the Year nominee Jeff Caldwell. Caldwell leads the league in saves (68) and has shut out Miami FC twice this season. 

Keys To A The Miami FC Victory

Miami FC’s depth will be put to the test this weekend. They will have to make do without goalkeeper Connor Sparrow and forward Cristiano François. Both were issued red cards in Miami’s scoreless draw on the road against Austin on Aug. 14. Now Head Coach Paul Dalglish will have to make some interesting decisions with the lineup.   

Backup keeper and Haitian international Brian Sylvestre filled in admirably for Sparrow in his first taste of USL Championship action all season, and he will have to be sharp again on Sunday against a lethally efficient Hartford attack. And Sylvestre will certainly need help from his backline, led by defender Paco Craig (who was nominated for Midseason Defender of the Year honors). 

François’s absence, meanwhile, may open the door for midfielder Speedy Williams to build on his terrific performances against Pittsburgh and Austin last week. Williams was voted Player of the Week after scoring twice in Miami’s comeback win over the Riverhounds on Aug. 11. Can he deliver another big performance against Hartford? 

Prediction

Miami has been stellar at home over the past two months and has shown resilience in recent victories. But with two key contributors forced to sit out and Hartford coming in with some fresh blood in its Starting XI, it may be difficult for Miami to come away with three points. 

Miami FC 1 – Hartford Athletic 1

Game Notes

WHO: Miami FC (9-6-4, 31 points) vs. Hartford Athletic (8-6-3, 27 pts) 

WHEN: Sunday, August 22 || 6:30 pm EST

WHERE: FIU Stadium (Miami, FL)

WATCH: ESPN+

DISCIPLINE: 

  • Miami FC – Connor Sparrow, Cristiano François
  • Hartford Athletic – None

The Miami FC v Austin Bold FC: Previewing The Match

It’s starting to feel a little crowded at the top of the Atlantic Division. And it could get even more crowded by the end of the weekend. 

After a rocky start to the season, Miami FC (9-6-3, 30 pts) has stormed back with a tremendous summer stretch. The Blue and Orange have only lost once in its past nine matches dating back to June 26 with six victories during that span. That includes a thrilling come-from-behind road victory over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Wednesday night to tighten the race.

The Miami FC v Pittsburgh Riverhounds: Previewing The Match

If Miami FC wants to prove that they are the best in the Atlantic, they will have to beat the best. And right now, the first-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds are the best.  

There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful about Miami FC (8-6-3, 27 pts) as enter the back half of the 2021 season. And yet, Miami has struggled to find that “big win” on the road this season.

A win on Wednesday night in the Steel City could change that and turn the race for the Atlantic Division’s top spot on its head. But what will it take for Miami FC to take down the red-hot Riverhounds? Let’s find out. 

Know Your Enemy: Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Riding a four-game winning streak, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (10-4-3, 33 pts) surged past Tampa Bay and now sit atop the Atlantic Division.    

Russell Cicerone and Hugh Alexander Dixon have been pivotal to the Riverhounds success this season. Cicerone leads the club with eight goals and four assists. Dixon, meanwhile, is right behind him with six goals and four assists.

In Pittsburgh’s 3-2 victory over Charleston last Friday, Cicerone opened the scoring in the 24th minute. Dixon then added a pair of goals in the winning effort. Dixon, for his efforts, earned his third straight selection to the USL Championship Team of the Week.    

The Riverhounds are one of the toughest defensive teams in the league. They’ve only allowed 18 goals so far this season (1.05 goals per game). And they have been formidable at home, compiling a 4-2-1 record at Highmark Stadium this season. 

Miami and Pittsburgh will meet again two more times this season. Both will be late season matches at FIU Stadium in October. If both squads continue on their current trajectories, those two matches could determine playoff positioning for Miami FC and Pittsburgh. 

Keys To A Miami Victory

In their only meeting this season, Miami FC and Pittsburgh fought to a 1-1 draw at Highmark Stadium on June 12. Cicerone gave Pittsburgh the early lead, but former Riverhound Cristiano François leveled the match for Miami just before the end of the first half to help Miami earn a point. Can François, who has three goals and three assists so far this season, help lift Miami to a huge victory against his former club? 

Miami must find a way to shut down Cicerone and Dixon and keep them off the scoresheet. Miami’s backline, led by Paco Craig, will need to be at their best and goalkeeper Connor Sparrow may need to make a big stop or two to help the Orange and Blue steal three points on the road.  

Prediction

If Miami wants to compete for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, they will need to find a way to beat teams like Pittsburgh–especially away from the friendly confines of FIU Stadium. But they are running into Pittsburgh at the worst possible time.

The Riverhounds are making a case that they are the new team to beat in the division. Despite Miami FC’s impressive play lately, it’s hard to see them taking down the hottest team in the division on the road. 

Pittsburgh Riverhounds 3 – Miami FC 2

Game Notes

WHO: Miami FC (8-6-3, 27 pts) vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (10-4-3, 33 pts)

WHEN: Wednesday, August 11 // 6:00 pm EST

WHERE: Highmark Stadium (Pittsburgh, PA)

WATCH: ESPN+ in the US, YouTube internationally

DISCIPLINE: 

  • Miami FC – None
  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds – None

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…

The Miami FC v Hartford Athletic: Previewing The Match

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. 

Prediction

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

 

Game Notes

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.

DISCIPLINE: 

  • Miami FC – Robert Kcira. Suspended (Red Card vs Battery).
  • Hartford Athletic – None