After a rocky start to its inaugural season, Miami FC has surged to third place in the NASL standings heading into Wednesday’s home game at FIU Stadium against the Carolina RailHawks.
Miami is coming off a 2-0 road win over second-place Edmonton, the Eddies’ first home loss since April 10. Miami has gone unbeaten in five straight games, and has just one loss in its past 10 matches.
The team’s fan base has also grown in recent weeks. A crowd of 9,739 showed up for their last home game Aug. 27, and Miami’s average attendance (4,894) is sixth-best of the league’s 12 teams. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are last with 1,452 fans per game.
“This moment right here, is the most important for us,” said Miami FC coach Alessandro Nesta, the Italian legendary defender. “We started the year from scratch, everything new, and it didn’t go as planned. But right now my team is ready, I’m ready, and we are pushing for the playoffs.”
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Forward Dario Cvitanich, who scored against Edmonton, was named NASL Player of the Week this week. The Argentine leads Miami with eight goals, and Ariel Martinez and Kwadwo Poku have five apiece. Before joining Miami FC, Cvitanich played in the Mexican league with Pachuca, and has also played for Boca Juniors in Argentina, Ajax in Netherlands and Nice in France.
“I’m very happy for Dario,” Nesta said. “He’s one of our most experienced players and he’s a very important person for us on and off the pitch. Our win [Sunday] against Edmonton was probably our most important win so far this season, and Dario helped us achieve that.”
Club management hopes the team’s surge will lead to more big crowds.
A pregame tailgate party with food trucks, beer tents, and the Dade Brigade supporters’ club has become a tradition outside Gate 5. Wednesday night the team has two promotions — First Responders Night (Miami-Dade Police vs. Fire Rescue in a pregame match, $1 admission for all First Responders) and Mexican Heritage Night (capitalizing on the appearance of former Mexican national team star Omar Bravo, who plays for Carolina).
“We continue to introduce our brand to the market, tell the story of who we are, and what we want to be, which is the soccer hub of Miami, the center of our soccer community,” said CEO Sean Flynn, a former collegiate soccer player who joined Miami FC after 13 years with the Marlins. “This town bleeds soccer, and I think our brand is starting to catch on.”
The addition of veteran players Poku, Michael Lahoud, Richie Ryan and Jonny Steele midseason has been a key to the team’s recent success, Flynn said.
“You’ve got Poku’s sense of humor and love of life, and then the Irish guys Steele and Ryan and Lahoud’s MLS experience, and those guys combined with our other players make a strong nucleus that has really come together,” Flynn said. “As a first-year team, your initial goal is just to be competitive. But now, we’re thinking postseason.”