Our History: Skyrocketing to the Top

Aug 24, 2018

The Miami FC was founded on May 20, 2015 by owner and president Riccardo Silva. Less than a year later, Miami was competing in the North American Soccer League along with the likes of the New York Cosmos and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. 

In its first year of play, Miami endured plenty of highs and lows but finished the season with plenty to build on going forward.

With a stellar core of players carrying over from 2016, the 2017 season featured arguably the best team in modern NASL history. Records were shattered and the American soccer world was put on notice. Here is how it all unfolded.

A Mixed Bag to Start

Miami FC opened its 2017 season on the road, taking on newly rebranded North Carolina FC at WakeMed Park. Four minutes into the match, Matt Fondy gave North Carolina a quick and easy 1-0 lead. Nine minutes later, Kwadwo Poku buried an equalizer that would end up being the final goal of the 1-1 draw. Staying on the road for its next match, Miami dismantled the incumbent champion New York Cosmos. Second half goals by Dylan Mares and Stefano Pinho, to go along with an own goal by Ryan Richter, made up all the scores in a 3-0 win for the Orange and Blue. 

In the second leg of an away-home split, Miami welcomed the Cosmos to Riccardo Silva Stadium for its home opener the following week. The home match didn't go nearly as smoothly as the road affair, as the Cosmos took home a 2-0 victory. Hosting another match the next week against North Carolina FC, Miami needed a 95th-minute equalizer from Robert Baggio Kcira to secure a point in a 1-1 draw. 

Unbeatable

While the loss to the Cosmos and draw against North Carolina wasn't what Miami was hoping for, it was the genesis of something special. After the 2-0 defeat, Miami went on an unbeaten streak of a whopping 14 matches across all competitions. During that span, Miami outscored its opponents 30-11 and took complete control at the top of the NASL. 

Leading the San Francisco Deltas by four points and playing against their direct rivals over the final two matches of the Spring Season, Miami could clinch the Spring Season title with a home victory in the first leg. Knowing the stakes, Miami came out firing, scoring three goals (two from Pinho and one from Dylan Mares) in the first 15 minutes. Pinho would add two more, Mares another and Ariel Martínez tallied one as well, to knock the Deltas out of the race in a 7-0 drubbing. A 3-1 away win in San Francisco capped off one of the best Spring Seasons in NASL history, as Miami won the title by 10 points and with a plus-22 goal differential.

A Memorable Open Cup Run

Within that 14-match unbeaten streak laid an unprecedented performance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Through the first couple of rounds in the all-inclusive tournament, the Orange and Blue took down the South Florida Surf and Tamp Bay Rowdies with two convincing home victories. The fourth round held an away date against Orlando City SC, the first MLS side that Miami FC would face in its short lifespan. Unfazed by the moment, Miami used a Pinho hat-trick to bury Orlando on the road and clinch its spot in the Round of 16.

A favorable draw allowed Miami to host a Round of 16 match against yet another MLS side, Atlanta United FC. Atlanta took the lead in the 35th minute, but Miami retaliated instantly through Pinho just two minutes later. Seven minutes into the second half, the Orange and Blue got a goal by Rhett Bernstein on a set piece to take a 2-1 lead. An unfortunate penalty gave Atlanta an equalizer, which set the stage for one of the most memorable moments in Miami sports history. In the final minute of the match, Vincenzo Rennella found Poku sprinting past the final line of defense. Poku ran onto the ball, fended off his defender and pushed his finish past the goalkeeper to spring Miami in the Open Cup Quarterfinals in dramatic fashion.

Miami would end up falling to FC Cincinnati in a rescheduled quarterfinals match, but it became the first NASL team to ever reach the quarterfinals of the historic tournament.