Italian legend Alessandro Nesta and Brazilian superstar Kaka were teammates at AC Milan. On Wednesday night, they meet again in Orlando, as opponents in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
Nesta is head coach of Miami FC, the top team in the North American Soccer League, and Kaka plays for Orlando City of Major League Soccer. Miami is on a 10-game unbeaten streak and eager to show that a team from the second-tier NASL can topple an MLS team with higher-priced players.
“Orlando is a very good team, and we will have to play a very special game to have a chance against them,” said Nesta. “It will be a great experience for our team to play in such a beautiful stadium against famous players like Kaka.”
The U.S. Open Cup is a 103-year-old knockout tournament (third-oldest in the world) that includes teams ranging from amateur clubs to MLS. It is the American version of England’s FA Cup. Last year, Orlando City was upset in the Round of 16 by the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Miami comes in as the top-scoring team in the NASL with 17 goals. Orlando City has struggled of late, with one win in the past eight games.
“It’s easy to see why Miami is at the top of the table in the NASL. It’s the best team in the NASL. It’s a team that’s very good with the ball and has some players that are really dangerous,” Lions coach Jason Kreis said. “It’s a team that is really good in possession and moves the ball well. I’m sure it’s going to be a very difficult challenge for us.”
Miami midfielder Michael Lahoud played seven years in MLS, and believes the gap between Miami FC and an MLS team is smaller than people may think.
“The biggest difference is each MLS teams has a few stars, designated players, who elevate the team, but as far as the rest of the players, the everyday lunch-pail-to-work kind of guys, the level is very similar between MLS and the best NASL teams,” Lahoud said. “In some cases, the NASL guys work harder because they have more to prove. This will be a great test for our guys.”