Is USL the only league on earth where one might say that the home team played two matches in a row against opponents they’ve never before faced? I mean, there are promotion/relegation leagues where you might see an English team relegated to a league in which they face recently promoted teams. But because it’s English football, the announcer is likely to say ‘North Sackington hasn’t played Chesterford-Scroggingsfield Wednesday since 1873.’
The Riverhounds take the field tonight against Miami FC. In 2020, Miami were drawn into Group H with Atlanta 2, Charleston, and Tampa, and so they did not get a chance to face the Riverhounds. Last week the Hounds played Austin Bold for the first time, so it’s exciting to see some fresh faces in the league.
Miami FC – The Broad Strokes
‘The’ Miami FC (that’s the first, last, and only time I will use the definite article in combination with Miami) were founded in 2015 and have played in *four* leagues already in their short history – the NASL, NPSL, NISA, and now USL. Italian owner Riccardo Silva clearly has aspirations for his team and himself that are, shall we say, outsized. He made a play to buy a stake in AC Milan a few years ago, and all of the owners in NASL seemed to have a firm belief that their league was on the verge of a breakout, despite all evidence to the contrary. Silva is a businessman that has his hands in many pots, all of them very Miami in nature. The son of a publishing family in Italy, he has been a TV CEO, a real estate man, and owns several modeling agencies. He wears a lot of tight t-shirts and blazer-no-tie combos. He’s exactly what you’d picture if you were to invent the owner of a soccer team in Miami.
Watching their home game against RGV Toros last week, there were hints, unconfirmed, of fans in attendance. No, there weren’t Covid protocols in place. This team has just not caught on with fans it seems. They play at FIU’s stadium, so maybe the lack of a dedicated space is hurting them. But I suspect changing leagues four times is probably hurting them. Also, there’s now an MLS team in Miami, although actually they play in Fort Lauderdale, but that probably isn’t helping attendance.
Miami FC got into USL by buying the franchise rights from the Ottawa Fury, who, if you recall, were forbidden from playing in USL by FIFA. Chaos becomes her, this Miami FC. If you were to put a bet on a franchise in USL not being around in two years, the smart money would be on Miami FC.
Tactics and Personnel
They play a 4-3-3 which is very aggressive and attack minded. Other than that, I’m not sure I can tell you too much about this team because the match I watched, their last game against RGV, ended 4-2 with two own-goals and a red card. It featured a good midfield press and transition into attack, but also sloppy defending galore. The caveat there is, of course, most defending looks desperate when you are down to 10 men.
Riverhounds fans will all be excited to witness the return of ‘The Cheetah’ himself, Christiano François. The former Pittsburgh winger had 6 goals, 7 assists for Reno 1868 last year before they folded. He’s still the same old Christiano – blazingly fast, hard to defend, likes to shoot, doesn’t love to pass.
François is matched on the other side of the field by another blazingly fast winger, Adonijah Reid. The Canadian likes to break through the line and receive the over-the-top ball on the run. The Riverhounds may need to figure out another way to start the offense without their wingers Jordan Dover or Dani Rovira pushing up high, considering they have a lot of work to do in defending very fast dudes. They probably ought to stay home and defend, but we’ll see what Bob Lilley wants to do.
I was sad a few years ago when center back Paco Craig left Louisville City for England – it meant that I could no longer make Boy George – Culture Club jokes at the expense of Craig, the son of the band’s bassist Mikey Craig. But I should have known that soccer players in USL, they come and go, come and go. So Craig is back! He’s a competent defender, although last week he put in an own-goal that was the go-ahead for RGV.
Towering 6 foot 5 defensive midfielder Bolu Akinyode picked up a red card for this last week:
Miami's Akinyode red in the 56th. pic.twitter.com/Km2VZr8jbV
— Soccer Rabbi (@soccer_rabbi) June 12, 2021
so he won’t be available this week against the Hounds. Midfielder Speedy Williams isn’t available either – he was called up by Jamaica for the international window. Expect midfielder Junior Palacios to be on the field though – he’s a former member of one of the oddest-named teams in domestic footie – the Florida Soccer Soldiers. Take that, Go Ahead Eagles.
In between the two pacey wingers is striker Pierre Da Silva . Da Silva was part of Orlando City from 2017 to 2019. He’s very good. Last week, he did this:
Oooh. Miami FC's Pierre Da Silva with the Olympico in last week's match vs RGV. pic.twitter.com/d9yXXhvaDm
— Soccer Rabbi (@soccer_rabbi) June 12, 2021
All in all, I think this is a talented attacking side that is easily exposed on defense. They have 8 Goals For, 9 Goals Against through six matches.
The Hounds should have a good, entertaining match tonight. Also, expect chaos. It’s Miami’s brand.
Finally, Mazal Tov to Bob Lilley – the match will be his one-hundredth for the Hounds. May we have Bob for a thousand games more.
Miami FC’s Lineup Last Week
Date: Saturday, June 12
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pa.
TV: 22 The Point
Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live Updates: PittsburghSoccerNow.com, Twitter at @RiverhoundsSC and #PITvMIA
image c/o Miami FC