Miami FC, stuck in last place and desperate for the first win in franchise history, invested between $250,000 and $500,000 the past few weeks to bolster the midfield.
The team acquired Richie Ryan of Ireland, who played with Ottawa and was captain of the Jacksonville Armada, and Michael Lahoud, a native of Sierra Leone who moved the United States at age 6, starred at Wake Forest, and has played eight years in Major League Soccer, most recently with the Philadelphia Union.
Ryan’s experience and calming influence were already apparent in Miami’s last match, a 0-0 tie with Carolina on the road. Lahoud, 29, joined the team this week, and is eager to make an impact in Saturday’s home game against second-place FC Edmonton. Miami has three ties and four losses over seven matches.
Lahoud had visited Miami only once. He is impressed with the city and his new team.
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“I love to immerse myself in the city’s culture, so I went downtown, which was very eclectic, and I’m going to have to pick and choose moments to visit South Beach because I strained my neck a few times looking at the beautiful women,” Lahoud said.
On a more serious note, he feels a sense of urgency under coach Alessandro Nesta, the legendary Italian defender.
“There are no breaks in practice,” Lahoud said. “The moment you leave the gym, and step into that Miami heat — a very appropriate name for the basketball team — you say prayers; because once you get on the field, it’s all about work. Nesta’s a winner. He’s won everything you can in this game. His expectations of us are very high. We have to match his ambition.”
He is also encouraged by the front office.
“Ownership is going after experienced players, and that sends a strong message,” he said. “With each expansion team, soccer, basketball, hockey, there’s always growing pains. My hope is the wealth of experience I have can shorten the growing pains. The quality’s there. There are times in training I find myself working harder than I was in NY [on loan with the Cosmos] and other places in my career.”
Midfielder Calvin Rezende, a Davie native, said the addition of Ryan and Lahoud has already made a difference.
“They’re going to pop out a lot,” Rezende said. “Richie and Michael, they played at high levels, they know what to expect. Being in the midfield, they can help give us young guys guidance and structure. There’s a lot of pressure on us to win that first game. It’s not easy, but we are working extremely hard and hopefully this Saturday it will show.”
Lahoud added: “Miami’s always been a question mark with soccer because it’s right up there with L.A., Boston, and New York as far as supporting winners. If you don’t win, the fans don’t care. I’m privileged to help get the ball rolling. It’ll be fun, hopefully, once we turn things around.”
Miami FC vs. FC Edmonton
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: FIU Stadium.
TV/Radio: BeIN Sport, Radio Caracol-1260 AM.
Promotion: Military personnel and first responders get in free with ID or uniform.