As we know, alongside the MLS season going on right now, the U.S. Open Cup is also going on. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is currently the oldest ongoing competition in American soccer. The U.S. Open Cup has been running for 104 years. Many soccer fans compare it to that of the FA Cup in English soccer where clubs of different levels face off in a large tournament. The first round started back in the first week of May which was the Open round. Any club in the country could enter. The second batch of teams coming in during the first round consisted of NPSL (National Premier Soccer League)/PDL (Premier Development League) teams. This would conclude the open rounds. During the second round, which started the following week, NASL (North American Soccer League)/USL (United Soccer League) teams joined in. Finally during the final week of May the MLS (Major League Soccer) teams join in as well.
Above is a map showing all 99 teams that are participating in the U.S. Open Cup this year. As you can see there are representatives of many areas across the country. Some clubs that you may be familiar with as well as others that may not be known. Now let’s get to the point. This fifth round matchup between Atlanta United FC and Miami FC. Let’s take a look at each team.
Atlanta United FC
This new MLS Expansion team has been creating quite some buzz in the league. As of right now they sit in 6th Place in the East and 10th Place in the Supporters Shield Standings with 24 pts and a record of (7-7-3). They are averaging 1.41 PPG and currently hold a (5-2-0) record at home. They also lead the league with 33 goals as a team. Pretty impressive stats for a team still in their first season. None of this would be possible without the talented roster that they have. For example, the top scorer of the team, Josef Martinez is currently sitting on 7 goals on the season. If it were not for his injury he received playing for the Venezuelan National team back in March he may be at the top of the scoring table for the league. This injury caused him to miss games all the way up until recently where he slowly got back in to the starting XI.
During his absence, players such as Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba really stepped up to the plate to provide some scoring for the “Five Stripes”. They also have players such as Yamil Asad in the midfield, who is currently tied as league leader with 9 assists on the season. Atlanta United also has plenty of older more experienced players such as Tyrone Mears and Jeff Larentowicz as well. Take all of this in to consideration and then add a coach such as Gerardo “Tata” Martinez in the mix and you can expect a solid team.
Atlanta will definitely be trying to make a name for itself straight out the gates. Some say this is one of the most successful expansion teams since Seattle. Let’s see if they can hold up to that expectation!
Miami FC is who will be opposing Atlanta in this match. They are also a fairly new team. Founded in May of 2015, Miami FC is currently participating in the NASL. They currently lead the NASL with 30 pts and a record of (9-3-1). Miami also leads the NASL with 23 goals scored. Paired with the highest scoring offense in the league they also only conceded 9 goals in the 13 games they have played. This shows that Miami can also play a good defensive game. I guess Alessandro Nesta is teaching this team a thing or two during his time at head coach for this club.
Last round Miami FC made a huge statement by defeating the MLS side Orlando City FC. The game ended in a 3-1 win for Miami FC with a hat-trick from Stefano Pinho. Many will try to argue that Orlando was playing a lazy game and not taking Miami seriously. I think the scoreline says otherwise though. Miami played a great game taking lots of shots on goal. Even though Orlando had the advantage in possession, they had problems executing in the attacking half. If anything, this game shows that Miami can and will take out an MLS side. Atlanta cannot take these guys lightly.
One thing Miami will have to take in to consideration is the amount of ex-Atlanta Silverbacks players on their roster. This is a definite advantage to them since the players know the system Atlanta will be playing and have played against some of these players before. Miami’s roster is also filled with players with MLS experience. Miami has players such as Gabriel Farfan, Jonathan Barrajo, Michael Lahoud, and Blake Smith just to name a few.
Miami and Atlanta are both strong teams on paper and on the field. This game will be very high paced and aggressive. Miami has the home field advantage which is also important. Atlanta definitely shows that they struggle when not playing at home. Most of those away losses did come during a time when Josef Martinez was injured though and Atlanta was still trying to find themselves as a team without their leading scorer. Miami on the other hand, does well at home and away. They also show that they do not let MLS opposition scare them as we saw against Orlando last round. Their previous MLS experience will show but at the end of the day I see Atlanta pulling this one through. Even though they have less MLS experience they do have players with lots of international experience. Atlanta’s fast paced play is hard to keep up with for any team.
It will be a low scoring game. My prediction for end score is 2-1 for Atlanta. Will the “Five Stripes” pull through with another victory or will Miami upset another MLS side on their journey to the U.S. Open Cup final? The game takes place June 28, 2017 at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami, FL at 7:30pm EST. It will be streamed here at the U.S. Soccer site. Will you be watching? Who do you think will win?
Featured Image by Miami FC, other images from US Soccer and Atlanta United