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MORNING TEA – After an ‘Eternity’, Miami FC Returns to Action

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 07/29/20, 7:30AM EDT

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Inside the success of Republic FC's Academy; Legion FC partnership with Civil Rights Institute captures city's imagination

Six games on tap tonight, including the first game back for the last team to return to action in the Championship since the season resumed. Here’s your Morning Tea for this Wednesday. 

 

THE BIG STORY

It will have been 145 days since Miami FC last took the field for its debut in the USL Championship when the side finally makes its return to action on Wednesday night against Atlanta United 2 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

And as the last of the Championship’s 35 teams to take the field since the season resumption on July 11, the wait to rebound from its opening loss to Saint Louis FC has certainly been a long one for Miami Head Coach Nelson Vargas.

“It seems like it’s been an eternity,” Vargas said. “Right now, it’s kind of all been a blur because things have happened so quickly. I guess in retrospect, in a couple of years when I look back I can have a better analytical point of view, but it’s just getting back on the field and trying to fix the things that we as a coaching staff thought we didn’t do well in that first game against Saint Louis.”

If the build-up to Miami’s return to action has been a blur, that figures to be the theme for the rest of the season for the Championship newcomer. With its regular season currently set to conclude on Sunday, October 4, the club is set to face a sprint of 15 games in 68 days. That’s an average of a game every 4.5 days, which is likely to be a test of the club’s depth as it pursues a top-two finish in Group H and a place in the playoffs.

With the solid restart already made by fellow Group H clubs the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Charleston Battery, there certainly will be pressure on Miami to match the victories both of those clubs have taken against ATL UTD 2 since the resumption of the season. After the club’s slow start in Saint Louis back in March, shaking off any rust from a lack of match action and matching Atlanta’s intensity early is going to be essential.

“We’ve analyzed Atlanta’s team,” said Vargas. “They’re very young, very athletic and very energetic. Like anything, you can have all the experience in the world but if you don’t match that intensity from the second the whistle blows it could be a long night, so experience is great but at the end of the day you have to match your opponents intensity and that’s something we’re looking to do right from kickoff.”

 

TONIGHT'S ACTION

Indy Eleven vs. Hartford Athletic

(4-1-0)
Group F

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Lucas Oil Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor:IND Wins 63% | Draw 21% | HFD Wins 15%
(3-0-0)
Group F
The Gist: The lone team with a perfect record in the Championship will face its toughest test of the season so far when Hartford Athletic heads to Indy Eleven for an interdivision matchup. The Athletic took their third consecutive victory on Saturday night, but had to rally from an early two-goal deficit against the Philadelphia Union II to take a 3-2 win as Ever Guzman scored the winner for his second goal of the season. The Eleven, meanwhile, are looking to rebound from their first loss of the season on Sunday evening away to Saint Louis FC, but with a 28-game regular-season home undefeated streak will be aiming to move one game closer to the all-time record of 33 games held by the Richmond Kickers while maintaining their lead at the top of Group E.

Atlanta United 2 vs. Miami FC

(0-3-1)
Group H

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Fifth Third Bank Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: ATL Wins 14% | Draw 19% | MIA Wins 67%
(0-1-0)
Group H
The Gist: Miami FC makes its return to action following the resumption of the Championship season on the road against Atlanta United 2 looking to gain ground on both the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Charleston Battery at the top of Group H. Miami had a debut to forget in its Championship opener as it fell 4-1 to Saint Louis FC on the road, but four months on will be hoping the rust shakes off quickly. There will be a familiar face heading to Atlanta with Romario Williams poised to lead the attack for the visitors, and it will be hopeful of picking up all three points against an ATL UTD 2 side that has taken only one point from its opening four games of the season.
Discipline: Atlanta - Suspended: Abdoulaye Diop

Louisville City FC vs. Sporting Kansas City II

(2-2-0)
Group E

8:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Lynn Family Stadium

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor:LOU Wins 69% | Draw 20% | SKC Wins 12%
(0-3-0)
Group E
The Gist: Having claimed victory in the first of back-to-back meetings on Saturday night, Louisville City FC will be hoping to claim a sweep of Sporting Kansas City II in their rematch. Cameron Lancaster scored the only goal in Saturday’s encounter to give LouCity its first win at new home Lynn Family Stadium, and with that hurdle cleared the hosts could enter with some pressure off to produce that initial win. Sporting has played every game of its season close so far, however, and despite sitting with three defeats from three games will be eager to find its first points of the season.

LA Galaxy II vs. San Diego Loyal SC

(3-1-0)
Group B

10:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: LA Wins 36% | Draw 27% | SD Wins 37%
(3-1-1)
Group B
The Gist: The top two teams in Group B square off for the second time this season with the LA Galaxy II looking to build on back-to-back victories as it hosts San Diego Loyal SC. Los Dos picked up victory on Saturday night in their home opener against Sacramento Republic FC as Augustine Williams scored the only goal to move into second place in the group standings, and also claimed victory against SD Loyal when they first met this year. As Head Coach Landon Donovan returns to the scene of many of his triumphs as a player, however, San Diego will be looking for revenge for that defeat after rebounding to take a 2-1 win last Saturday against Las Vegas Lights FC that moved the first-year side into first place after its third win overall this season.

Portland Timbers 2 vs. Reno 1868 FC

(0-2-0)
Group A

10:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Providence Park

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: POR Wins 31% | Draw 23% | RNO Wins 45%
(1-1-0)
Group A
The Gist: Both the Portland Timbers 2 and Reno 1868 FC will try to rebound from losses in their first games back after the season resumption, with T2 also looking for its first points of the season in its home opener. Portland suffered a 3-0 defeat to rival Tacoma Defiance last time out despite a bright performance by former USL League Two standout Aaron Molloy. Reno, on the other hand, fell 1-0 to Sacramento Republic FC after it conceded a late penalty kick at Papa Murphy’s Park on July 19, but with a victory would jump past Sacramento and Tacoma and back into first place in Group A while still holding a game in hand on both sides.

Sacramento Republic FC vs. Orange County SC

(1-1-2)
Group A

11:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Papa Murphy’s Park

FiveThirtyEight.com Predictor: SAC Wins 33% | Draw 28% | OC Wins 39%
(1-0-2)
Group B
The Gist: Orange County SC heads north to face Sacramento Republic FC aiming to build on a notable first win of the season while looking to close the gap to the leaders in Group B. A goal by Ugo Okoli sent Orange County to a 1-0 victory on Saturday against Phoenix Rising FC, keeping Head Coach Braeden Cloutier’s side in touch with the playoff positions in the group with games in hand on the sides above it. Still undefeated, OCSC may get a challenge from Sacramento, which returns home after suffering its first loss of the season on Saturday against the LA Galaxy II.
 

THE SOCIAL CIRCLE

 

THE USL LOWDOWN

- Since the inception of Sacramento Republic FC’s Academy, three academy players have signed First Team contracts with the club, another eight have signed with another professional team, 33 academy players were called into national team programs and 42 signed with Division I college soccer programs. The Sacramento Bee’s Cameron Salerno dug into how the club has achieved success in bringing top local talent through to the next level.

- The Charlotte Independence showed some of the rust 139 days without a game could cause but still earned a point from its visit to Memphis 901 FC in its return to action. The Charlotte Post’s Ashley Mahoney has more on how the club is setting up to build back its sharpness ahead of next Wednesday night’s game against Group G leader Birmingham Legion FC.

- The silent auction of special edition jerseys worn by Birmingham Legion FC in its July 15 game against Memphis 901 FC in support of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute raised almost $10,000. The Birmingham News’ Joe Goodman has more on how the jerseys not only caught the imagination of fans but epitomizes how the club continues to tap into the civic pride that courses through the city.

- The Trailheads have become an essential part of gameday at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC games, growing each year of the club’s history with new converts to the game. The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Kate Shefte caught up with some of the group’s members to talk about their path to fandom, and the relationships that have been forged between the club’s supporters and players.

- Did you enjoy Tuesday morning’s Big Story on Saint Louis FC’s Tyler Blackwood? Well, good news, he was also the guest on Steele Some Time this week, where hosts Kelsi Steele and Scott Stewart also dug into Tyler Pasher’s miraculous winner for Indy Eleven against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and much more.

- There's a big interdivision matchup out west as Sacramento Republic FC plays host to Orange County SC at Papa Murphy's Park. Indomitable City Soccer has three things to watch as Republic FC tries to end OCSC's undefeated start to the season.

- For the United States Men’s National Team, the start of World Cup Qualifying under Concacaf’s new format is just under a year away. For some national team players in the USL Championship, though, the call to represent their country could arrive later this year. Jon Arnold has four key talking points to come out of the federation’s reformatted plan to fit everything into the calendar for the next two years.

- Where else could the USL Championship’s Return to Play model work? According to Stanley Cup of Chowder’s Dan Shulman, the Championship’s regionalized model could be a competition structure that would help the American Hockey League begin play in the 2020-21 season.

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