Orlando City begins its U.S. Open Cup quest on Wednesday against NASL side Miami FC. The game at Orlando City Stadium will be the first USOC match in the new building and the Lions will face a formidable opponent, as Miami leads the NASL spring session with a 6-1-3 record.
Miami is already battle tested in the competition, beating South Florida Surf and the Tampa Bay Rowdies to earn a berth in Round 4. Here to help us scout the competition is Omar from Magic City Soccer, a podcast covering Miami FC.
Who are the three key players on Miami FC that Orlando City fans should keep their eye on Wednesday night?
Magic City Soccer: The three key players that OCSC fans should look out for are Dylan Mares, Kwadwo Poku, and Vincenzo Rennella. Mares has been the catalyst during Miami's recent unbeaten run, as he has unlocked the answers for both Open Cup matches and the win against the Jacksonville Armada. Poku is a man amongst boys in the NASL. His strength and pace have proven to be unmatched in league play and he is definitely capable of being an above average MLS footballer. Last, but not least, fan favorite Vincenzo (Enzo) Rennella, is a goal-scoring machine. Coming to the club from the Spanish second division, Enzo is able to find his way into goal-scoring areas and has multiple tools at his disposal to put the ball in the back of the net.
Honorable Mention: Robert Baggio Kcira. Kcira made the club as a trialist last year and wasn't featured often. During the preseason, Miami suffered significant injuries to its back line and Kcira filled in beautifully, providing excellent defending on the left flank but also showing an ability to spring forward and provide another layer to the potent Miami attack. Second to Rennella in goals, Kcira has earned the right to be Nesta's first choice left back.
Former Orlando City defender Brad Rusin is a member of Miami FC. How has he fit in with the club and what can you tell us about his performance since he joined the NASL side?
MCC: Brad Rusin scored the second goal in Miami FC history. Last year he made seven appearances on the back line but was hampered by a season-ending injury. We spoke with him during our first Open Cup match and he seems poised to make a return. Currently he would probably be the third or fourth center back on the roster.
What kind of shape and tactics should we expect from Miami FC on Wednesday and how much of an impact with the international player limitations have on the team’s regular lineup?
MCC: Miami has been lining up in a 4-3-3 lately (don't be surprised to see a 4-4-2 diamond). Teams in the NASL like to try and clog the middle of the field against them, however, the fullbacks are more than capable of providing effective services into the area. If the middle isn't securely locked down by Orlando, expect an onslaught from Richie Ryan, Mares, and Poku. Michael Lahoud received an international call-up from his home nation of Sierra Leone for the African Cup of Nations qualifier vs. Kenya. He should be back in Florida by match day.
Predicted starting XI and final score?
MCC: Should Alessandro Nesta field our A-Team, we predict:
GK - Daniel Vega 17
LB - Robert Baggio Kcira 14
CB - Mason Trafford 5
CB - Rhett Bernstein 18
RB - Hunter Freeman 15
LM - Dylan Mares 7
CM - Richie Ryan 20
RM - Michael Lahoud 26
CAM/F - Kwadwo Poku 10
F - Enzo Renella 8
F - Jaime Chavez 9
Final Score Miami 2 - 1 Orlando.
Big thanks to Omar from Magic City Soccer for stopping by and giving us the 411 on our opponents from South Florida.