While David Beckham and his ownership group continue to work out their stadium deal for a Major League Soccer team, there is a new professional soccer club in town that opens its inaugural season Saturday night with a roster full of internationals and a coach and co-owner who are two of the greatest Italian defenders of all time.
Miami FC, a member of the North American Soccer League, plays its first match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Lockhart Stadium (8 p.m., BeINSport USA). Next Saturday, it plays its home opener at Ocean Bank FIU Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Miami FC is co-owned by former Italy World Cup and AC Milan star Paolo Maldini is and coached by Maldini’s former teammate Alessandro Nesta, who played in three World Cups.
“Starting a team from scratch is not easy, but we have all worked really hard and have been awaiting this day,” Nesta said. “The rivalry between us begins Saturday and we are going to leave it all on the field.”
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Midfielder Dane Richards of Jamaica said the players are learning a lot from Nesta.
“Definitely, we’ll get some clean sheets with a player of his caliber coaching us,’’ Richards said. “He was a top defender, a legend. He gets out there with us, and he’s still got the touch. Maybe he doesn’t have the energy, but you can see he’s still got it. The little things he tells you, you’re like, ‘Oh [geez], suppose I did that six years ago, imagine where I’d be.’ ”
The team includes players from Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Spain, Canada, Venezuela, France, Jamaica and the United States. Despite the language barrier, the players have been getting to know each other with team dinners and outings.
Among the players to watch are Cuban midfielder Ariel Martinez, Brazilian defender Adailton, captain Jonathan Borrajo of Clifton, New Jersey, Argentine goalkeeper Daniel Vega, Honduran national team veteran Wilson Palacios, Brazilian midfielder Matuzalem and Argentine forward Dario Cvitanich.
“It’s a brand new team, takes a little while to figure out personalities, but it’s started to come along the past few weeks,” midfielder Blake Smith said. “It is a new organization, and it could have been a very circus act kind of thing. But everybody here is very, very professional, and you can tell there’s a lot of desire and passion to be successful in the first season.”
Smith said he, too, is learning from Nesta.
“He’s Italian, a legend, and nit-picky, so he expects perfection in everything down to body position,” Smith said. “It’s a good thing. It helps young players learn and develop.”
Coach: Alessandro Nesta; Players: David Sierra, GK, Spain; Jonathan Borrajo, D, Clifton, N.J.; Brad Rusin, D, Tampa; Adailton, D, Brazil; Mason Trafford, D, Canada; Ariel Martinez, F, Cuba; Roberto Alterio, M, Venezuela; Wilson Palacios, M, Honduras; Jaime Chavez, F, Los Angeles; Matuzalem, M, Brazil; Aaron Dennis, F, Elmont, N.Y.; Dario Cvitanich, F, Argentina; Jorge Luis Corrales, D, Cuba; Robert Baggio Kcira, M, New York; Sergio Van Kanten, M, Miami; Hugo Leroux, D, France; Mario Daniel Vega, GK, Argentina; Rhett Bernstein, D, San Diego, Calif.; Dane Richards, M, Jamaica; Calvin Rezende, M, Davie; Conner Rezende, M, Davie; Blake Smith, M, Boerne, Texas; Joe Franco, D, Pasadena, Calif.; Lionel Brown, GK, Fort Lauderdale; Pablo Campos, F, Brazil.
2016 home schedule
(all games FIU Stadium, 8 p.m. kickoff)
April 9: Tampa Bay Rowdies; April 22: Rayo Oklahoma City; May 7: NY Cosmos; May 28: FC Edmonton; June 4: Indy Eleven; July 9: N.Y. Cosmos; July 16: Jacksonville Armada; July 30: Indy Eleven; Aug. 13: Fort Lauderdale Strikers; Aug. 27: Minnesota United; Sept. 14: Carolina Railhawks; Sept. 23: Puerto Rico FC; Sept. 28: Ottawa Fury; Oct. 8: Rayo Oklahoma City; Oct. 14: Tampa Bay Rowdies; Oct. 28: FC Edmonton.