FC Cincinnati (USL) at Miami FC (NASL)
Wednesday, July 11 – 7:30 p.m. EST
Riccardo Silva Stadium – Miami, FL
BROADCAST: ONLINE VIDEO
Winner will play New England Revolution / New York Red Bulls winner (Site / Date TBD)
FC Cincinnati Open Cup records
Overall: 4-1-1 (1-0 PK) | Home: 4-0-1 (1-0 PK) | Away: 0-1-0 | vs. Div. 2: 1-1-0
Last entry: 2016 (Lost 1-0 at Tampa Bay Rowdies of NASL in Round 3)
Best finish: 2016 Third Round (Lost 1-0 at Tampa Bay Rowdies of NASL)
Leading goalscorer: Djiby Fall – 3 goals
Miami FC Open Cup records
Overall: 4-1-0 | Home: 3-1-0 | Away: 1-0-0 | vs. Div. 2: 1-0-0
Last entry: 2016 (Lost 2-1 vs. Wilmington Hammerheads of USL in Round 3)
Best finish: 2016 Third Round (Lost 2-1 vs. Wilmington Hammerheads of USL)
Leading goalscorer: Stefano Pinho – 4 goals (1st in 2017 US Open Cup)
In a battle of darling underdogs, the NASL’s Miami FC will host the USL’s FC Cincinnati Wednesday night in a 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup quarterfinal. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. and can be watched online (video will be embedded above). The winner will become the eighth lower division side to reach the Open Cup semifinals since 1996. This is also the 21st Open Cup meeting between rival leagues NASL and the USL, with the USL holding a narrow 10-8-2 (1-1 PKs) edge in those contests.
A reasonable accounting would suggest Miami FC are the favorites, having already secured the NASL’s Spring Season Championship with room to spare following a 7-0 thrashing of the San Francisco Deltas, which saw Stefano Pinho, who leads the 2017 US Open Cup in goalscoring, scoring four goals. Miami have lost only two games this season and in defeating the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Third Round action, already eliminated one of five USL teams ahead of Cincinnati in the USL table. Still, no game is won on paper and Cincinnati enter tonight’s quarterfinal playing tremendous defense in the competition, having not allowed a single goal in four matches. The reigning Player of the Round winner goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt has shut out Louisville City, the Columbus Crew and the Chicago Fire and hasn’t allowed an Open Cup goal since last year’s Third Round loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The game is a credit to two smart front offices and an intriguing game featuring a contrast of styles, with Alan Koch and Cincinnati’s compact, organized defense and counterattacking style, a stylistic opposite to Miami FC’s possession-intensive pressure attack. Still, Cincinnati aren’t without goal-scoring threats, led by Senegal international Djiby Fall, who became just the third player in the Modern Era to score three consecutive game-winnig goals in the Open Cup. There is attacking depth in Jamaica international Omar Cummings and the bruising Dane, Danni König. There is also a Premier League veteran and former Arsenal product Justin Hoyte, a Trinidad and Tobago international who provides speed and width on the break, and often plays off the bench, giving the team an electric option as legs tire.
But the calling card is defense, starting with a stout midfield that covers ground first. Aodhan Quinn, Kenney Walker and Paul Nicholson patrol the midfield, putting in hard tackles and waiting for the opponent to make mistakes, distributing quickly in transition when Cincy win the ball. And behind them, Cincinnati play an organized trap and when all else fails, have Hildebrandt, whose heroics against the Columbus Crew and the Chicago Fire are a huge reason the club are here.
Cincinnati kicked off their Open Cup run with a 1-0 extra time win over defending NPSL champion AFC Cleveland, followed by a 1-0 win against fellow USL side Louisville City FC. In Round 3, the most fans to ever show up for a non-Final (30,160) were in Cincinnati to watch their team upset the Crew 1-0 at Nippert Stadium. The fourth consecutive home crowd (and a national audience on ESPN) saw an even bigger crowd (32,287) in the Round of 16 when Cincinnati finished scoreless with the Chicago Fire before winning in penalty kicks, thanks to three saves by Hildebrandt in the shootout.
After being one-and done in their inaugural Open Cup appearance last year, Miami FC has cruised into the Quarterfinals with a pair of wins over MLS opposition. The run started with a 3-2 home win over the South Florida Surf (PDL), followed by a 2-0 win at home over the Tampa Bay Rowdies. They hit the road in Round 4 and came away with a convincing 3-1 upset of Orlando City SC where Pinho scored a hat trick and Player of the Round honors. To get to the Quarterfinals, they had to pull off a dramatic win at home over MLS expansion side Atlanta United where Kwadwo Poku scored a goal on what proved to be the final kick of the game to pull off the 3-2 “cupset”.
Miami FC, with their cupboard of attacking talent in Pinho, Poku, Ariel Martinez, Jaime Chavez, and Enzo Rennella, will test Cincinnati’s defense as intensely as any team they’ve played in this competition. And this time, there won’t be 30,000 fans at Nippert Stadium urging Cincinnati forward. But Miami know and respect what a difficult challenge it will be to finally be the team that breaks through and scores against Cincinnati in this competition.
“Cincinnati are a good team that’s very good at what they do, especially defensively,” Miami FC captain Michael Lahoud said Monday. “They have had an amazing Open Cup run to get to this round, and have really benefited from their inspiring home crowds. I expect them to be well-organized and a lethal counter-attacking team, looking to take advantage of whatever chance they get, while keeping it extremely tight at the back.”
Still, Miami FC are eager to show they are more than just a splendid blend of attacking riches. They defend too, as one would expect from a team managed by Alessandro Nesta, a World Cup winner with Italy nicknamed “The Minister of Defense.”
“If you play for Nesta, you’ll defend,” Kwadwo Poku said. “We have to suffer that together.”
The orange and blue have done enough defensively to get to this point, despite conceding two goals to both the South Florida Surf and more understandably, Atlanta United of MLS. They stifled the Rowdies counterattack and frustrated Kaka and Orlando City for 90 minutes, using defensive pressure to earn chances high up the pitch. It’s a formula for success, and the club are looking forward to building on the championship resume they secured Saturday night.
“We are excited about the match and the opportunity to take one step closer to one of our biggest goals this season,” Miami FC captain Michael Lahoud said. “It will be an incredible night for my teammates, the fans, and the city of Miami.”
If Miami do win, they will become the first team from the state of Florida to reach the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinals since 2000 when the Miami Fusion (MLS) ultimately made a run to the Final. Meanwhile, Cincinnati are playing to become the first team from southern Ohio to reach the semifinals of the competition since the Crew accomplished the feat in 2010. FC Cincinnati are already the first team from the Queen City to advance this far in the tournament.
One underdog’s dream will live on. And with these two well-coached and well-constructed teams, who’s to say it stops there?
* 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup schedule, results
* 2017 US Open Cup Round 1 review
* 2017 US Open Cup Round 2 review
* 2017 US Open Cup Round 3 review
* 2017 US Open Cup Round 4 review
* 2017 US Open Cup Round of 16 review
* 2017 TheCup.us Player of the Round winnners
* 2017 US Open Cup bracket (TheCup.us)
* 2017 US Open Cup statistical leaders
* A map of all 99 entries for the 2017 US Open Cup
* 2017 Meet the Underdogs series
* 2017 US Open Cup qualifying Round 2 review: 14 more teams advance as Round 3 moved to next year
* 2017 US Open Cup qualifying Round 1: Scores and recaps from every game
* Who is the US Open Cup equivalent to Lincoln City FC and their magical FA Cup run?
* Eric Wynalda hired to lead LA Wolves for 2017 US Open Cup run
* Reading United qualifies for record 9th straight US Open Cup, seeking more than an opening round win
* Things you should know about the Quarterfinals of the US Open Cup
* The nine upsets of the US Open Cup Quarterfinals (Modern Era)
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