The 2016 U.S. Open Cup was disappointing to Orlando City SC, as the club left the tournament after the fifth round, following a last-minute, 2-1 home loss to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. On Wednesday, the Lions have the opportunity to write a different story as they start their 2017 campaign.
Orlando City’s first opponents will be fellow Floridians Miami FC as the teams clash at Orlando City Stadium. It will be the first meeting between the Lions and the NASL side, so let’s bring you some information about them as we get ready for the game:
Miami FC started its operations in 2016, when the club finished dead last in the NASL. The club is owned by two Italians, businessman Riccardo Silva and former soccer player Paolo Maldini, a four-time World Cup veteran and five-time UEFA Champions League winner for AC Milan.
Miami FC also has Italian pedigree on its coaching staff as the club is led by Head Coach Alessandro Nesta, a World Cup winner in 2006. As a defender, Nesta played for Italian powerhouse AC Milan — where he shared the field with both Kaká and Antonio Nocerino — and Lazio, and also had a stint in MLS, between 2012 and 2013, when he dressed for the Montreal Impact. After playing in India, he became Miami FC’s first-ever head coach in 2016.
Miami FC possesses an experienced roster, with nine MLS veterans and players with massive experience overseas, including stints in Spain, France, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Greece, and Mexico, among others. Their most popular face is arguably Ghanaian midfielder Kwadwo Poku, who played for New York City FC in 2015 and 2016 under Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis. Also, keep an eye on French striker Vincenzo Renella, who is currently second in goal scoring in the NASL with five goals. Former Lion Brad Rusin, who played for Orlando City in 2014, is also part of the squad. Goalkeeper Daniel Vega has kept four clean sheets and is allowing 0.80 goals against per game.
Miami FC is rebounding pretty well from a frustrating opening season in the NASL as the team leads the standings in the spring season at 7-1-3 and 24 points in 11 games. The team is undefeated for the last 10 matches and owns the best offense and the best defense in the league so far, scoring 17 goals and allowing just eight. The team’s road form has been particularly impressive, with a 5-0-1 mark in NASL play away from home. In the U.S. Open Cup, the South Floridians booked their place to play Orlando with a 2-0 home win over USL side Tampa Bay Rowdies in May.