I’m at a bit of a loss for what to say about Miami FC. Last year I covered the colorful, chaotic nature of the existence and brand, and predicted “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.”
We have entered year two, and although attendance is up 61% over 2021 for Miami, they still are 24th in USL-Championship attendance. The three teams below them are all ‘two’ teams – the reserve and academy squads of MLS – which regularly draw quite poorly. I don’t think averaging 1,127 fans a match is going to get it done. In fact, if those numbers were imported to USL-League One, they’d still be dead last.
Why do I say I’m at a bit of a loss? Because I don’t root for the failure of American soccer teams – not even teams that have been displaced in the market by an MLS team, as Miami FC have been by David Beckham’s Inter Miami. I believe in soccer, and I believe that a big city can support two, three, maybe even five teams in a variety of leagues from the first division to the fourth and comprising both men and women. If London can support sixteen teams, Miami can surely maintain two, right?
Except, seemingly, they can’t. And tonight, when you tune in the Hounds match, your thoughts will be drawn to memories of the team’s bizarre match in 2021 where a terrible call – literally, the worst refereeing error I have witnessed in 10 years of watching soccer regularly – required a replay a week later. But the silence of the stadium and its paltry attendance will also make you think ‘is this really befitting of a USL-C franchise?’ I am ready for the USL to stop being a garage league, and that means no more garbage pitches like the match we played in Las Vegas, and no more racist owners like Charlotte Independence. And it means that maybe the league has to have a serious talk with Miami FC about either really putting in the time and money to emerge in the local market, or packing up their stuff and relegating down a league or two.
Miami FC. Their image is loud. But the collective response from potential fans in Miami has been, so far, muted.
Tactics and Personnel
After a 2021 season playing in a 4-3-3, Miami have played most of 2022 in the more defensive 4-2-3-1 formation. They’re tied for first in USL-C East for Goals Against, conceding just 10 times in 12 matches.
There’s no doubt this team has experience and talent.
Florian Valot spent six years in the Red Bull organization shuttling between the senior side and NYRB II. He used to be more of a wing midfielder, but Miami uses him as their sometimes deep-lying maestro. Think ‘the French Kenny Forbes’.
Romeo Parkes is a USL and Irish Premier League journeyman at this point. He’s strong and good with a headed ball, but he’s also 31 years old and has never really proven to be a prolific scorer, with an average of just 0.32 goals per 90 minutes, which is pretty below-average for a center forward. Sadly, Romeo’s best year was with the Hounds in 2016. He had 5 goals in 472 minutes and was poised for a breakout when he committed an unspeakably awful foul that resulted in a year-long FIFA ban. I’m glad he was contrite and ultimately was forgiven, but we’ll always wonder what his career might have been if he hadn’t derailed it in a flash of anger.
Devon ‘Speedy’ Williams, the Jamaican midfielder, is here too. He’s mostly a prowling two-way central midfielder, equally adept at distribution and tackling these days – I don’t know that the designation ‘Speedy’ really fits anymore.
And of course, you knew I was going to say something about the Karma Chameleon himself, Paco Craig. Because . I always. Do. He’s good at ball-clearing, he’s smart-tackling, he’s good in possession and he’s a great out of the back distributor. He will also, of course, tumble 4 ya.
In terms of youth, the team is a little short. Salvadoran Joshua Perez, formerly with LAFC, starts on the wing and has 2 goals this year so far. He’s 24 years old. But the bulk of the starting XI are in the 29 to 31 year-old range, which in soccer years is past the prime age of 26 by a bit. Theoretically, you could beat this team by just running them to death. However, a few of the Riverhounds key players are Kenny Forbes, age 34; Alex Dixon, age 32; Mekeil Williams, age 31; and Dane Kelly, age 31. So I dunno, man.
Last Week’s Starting XI
Sparrow; Antonelli, Ofeimu, Palacios; Bah, Akinyode, Valot, Segbers; Reid, Parkes, Perez
Riverhounds (7-3-1) at Miami FC (5-4-3)
Date: Saturday, May 28
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Riccardo Silva Stadium, Miami, Fla.
Odds: Hounds +180 / Draw +230 / Miami +120 (Bet Rivers)
TV: 22 The Point
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: Pittsburgh Soccer Now, @RiverhoundsSC on Twitter
Match hashtag: #MIAvPIT
Image Credit: Mark Asher Goodman