Alessandro Nesta spent much of his career playing in Italy’s Stadio Olimpico and San Siro, in front of tens of thousands of fans, so he knows how much energy home fans can infuse in a team.
Although the crowd will likely be much smaller — in the 8,000 to 10,000 range — for Miami FC’s inaugural home game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at FIU Stadium on Saturday night, Nesta, coach of Miami’s new team, hopes the home-field advantage will help his players win their first game in team history.
Miami tied cross-county NASL rival Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1-1 at Lockhart Stadium last Saturday in the team’s first game.
“I am very curious to see the ambiance at our first home game,” Nesta said. “I have big hopes that our players will feel less pressure in their second game, and that we can deliver a victory for our fans. Last week, I could tell some players were very nervous. Everything is new. This week, we should play more calmly.”
Despite the nerves and the tie, Nesta was “very happy” with Miami FC’s performance last weekend. He believes his team might have won had Cuban defender Jorge Luis Corrales not been sent off with two yellow cards, leaving the team a man down for the final 45 minutes. Miami FC led 1-0 through most of the game, and the Strikers tied on a late-game penalty kick.
“The red card complicated things for us,” Nesta said. “We also had a few injuries. But overall, we played well, especially the first 30 minutes. And practices have been very good all week. I think we are the better team on Saturday, and we should have a good chance to win.”
Last week’s game was extremely physical, with 44 fouls, five yellow cards and a red. Nesta would prefer the game against the Rowdies not be quite as rowdy. Among the players on the Rowdies roster is one-time teen phenom Freddy Adu, who signed with Major League Soccer’s DC United as a 14-year-old. He is now 26, and still shows signs of his old self, but did not play in last week’s 0-0 tie with Indy Eleven.
Nesta plans to keep the starting lineup mostly intact, although 35-year-old Brazilian midfielder Matuzalem is expected to get more playing time.
The forwards are Jamie Chavez and Dario Cvitanich, an Argentine who scored Miami’s first ever goal in the season opener. Cvitanich joined the team with an impressive résumé from the French and Mexican leagues. He scored 50 goals in 69 games for Nice in France and scored 15 goals in 46 matches with Pachuca in Mexico.
Cvitanich was named to the NASL Team of the Week for his goal.
Ariel Martinez, who defected from the Cuban national team last July, was a standout from the attacking midfield position. He was very active with 72 touches and took a game-high five shots, including one that was cleared on the goal line. Other midfielders are Blake Smith, Adailton (Brazil) and Calvin Rezende, a Davie native whose twin brother, Conner, is also on the team.
The starting defenders are Hugo Laroux (France), Brad Rusin, Rhett Bernstein and Jonathan Borrajo. Mario Daniel Vega of Argentina is the goalkeeper.
“We have been improving every single day, and I am very excited to see how they do in our second game,” Nesta said. “I think our team will be very competitive all season, and I hope Miami fans come support us.”
Miami FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: FIU Stadium.
TV/Radio: GOL-TV, ESPN3, Caracol-1260 AM
Records: Miami (0-0-1), Tampa Bay (0-0-1).
Tickets: $10 adults, $1 youth. Free admission for anyone with a Dade County Youth Fair ticket from April 9.