U.S. Soccer
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2016 Delle Nazioni Tournament

Gradisca, Italy
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US Soccer

After Stellar Season, Novakovich Returns to MNT

As the fourth official raised the substitution board, the tears began to fall for Zorka Novakovich. Her son Andrija stepped onto the field in the 77th minute of March’s friendly against Paraguay to pick up his first cap as a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team. A full-fledged family reunion stood on hand for the moment as 14 members of the Novakovich clan made the 16-hour drive from Wisconsin to Cary, N.C.


Two months later, the Muskego, Wisc., product has wrapped up a standout season with SC Telstar in the Netherlands and returned for his second senior team call-up. As the MNT prepares to take on Bolivia next week, his MNT invite to Philadelphia warrants another Novakovich family road trip. This time around, the journey should only last 14 hours each way.

“I think they’re looking forward to it just as much as I am,” Novakovich said as camp opened on Monday. “They’ll be in full force. It’s a massive honor. It’s a proud moment for myself and for them.”

Novakovich caught fire this season in the Dutch Erstedivisie to catch the attention of the MNT. On loan from English Championship side Reading, his 19 goals made him the second-leading scorer in the Dutch second division. The loan presented Novakovich with the first opportunity at extended first-team football in his young career. He seized every chance to impress.

“When you get opportunities, show what you can do,” Novakovich said. “To get consistent minutes, that’s exactly why I went there on loan from Reading. It was a great experience, I enjoyed every minute. It’s just about developing and getting better. It’s a massive confidence boost.”

After several years near the bottom of the Eerstedvisie table, Telstar earned its best finish since 1994, two years before Novakovich was born. He also led the White Lions to the promotion playoffs for the first time in almost ten years. While the club narrowly fell 6-5 to De Graafschap on aggregate, he scored in both of the team’s second round matches and even tallied a crucial equalizer in the second leg before the eventual series-winner came five minutes later from the opposition.

Raised in a tight-knit Serbian community outside Milwaukee, Novakovich passed up a scholarship to local Marquette University to sign with Reading in 2014. After a spell in the club’s youth set-up, he led the U-23 reserve team in scoring last season to prove himself ready for first team football. While the environment changed this season, Novakovich’s knack for finding the back of the net has endured.

“He’s coming off the back end of a very successful campaign,” said MNT head coach Dave Sarachan. “We had a good opportunity to get to know Andrija in our last preparation for Paraguay. He showed that he belonged in the group during that camp and in that match. This is just another opportunity to continue to see him and have a guy that has shown to be a capable goal scorer and effective as a striker. He comes in with a lot of confidence.”

Novakovich made sporadic appearances for several Youth National Team squads, but March provided his first-ever senior team call-up. A towering presence at the forward position, his six-four frame has turned heads at every level.  In Philadelphia, Novakovich has been reunited with several former YNT teammates like Lynden Gooch, Erik Palmer-Brown and Rubio Rubin. At 21 years old, he checks in a dash below the average roster age and stands tall as part of the MNT’s next generation.

In Novakovich’s brief appearance against Paraguay, he nearly picked up his first international goal alongside his first cap. His play in North Carolina made enough of an impression to earn a return camp invite as one of 11 holdovers from March. Only two out-and-out forwards have made the trip to Philadelphia, a vote of confidence for Novakovich.  

“It’s a good feeling,” Novakovich said. “You just want more, you want to keep going. It’s an honor to come here and try to showcase as much as possible. You’re just trying to be ready as soon as you’re called upon.”

Fourteen family members watched Novakovich earn his first cap in Cary. His nose for the net defined his season in the Netherlands. A first international goal, in front of another packed personal supporters’ section, would put an exclamation point on an incredible season.

“It’s a different step playing at an international stage,” Novakovich said. ”It’s a big difference from club level. I’m just going to try to do my best at whatever I do, work hard and show the coaches what I can do.”

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MNT May 22, 2018

OC Nor’easters: Family Affair on the Jersey Shore

Among the tens of thousands of tourists and day-trippers that swell Ocean City’s population each summer, you’d hardly notice a couple dozen soccer players here or there. They mix right in with the throngs on the boardwalk. But every year they come, among the best collegiate players from every corner of the country (and the globe), for fun and sand and dramatic sunrises, sure, but mostly to join up with one of the best amateur soccer clubs in America: The Ocean City Nor’easters.

“For me this is not a business,” said Giancarlo Granese who bought the bankrupted South Jersey Barons in 2004, and moved them to Ocean City from “the middle of nowhere.” He immigrated to New Jersey in the mid-1970s from a small town near Naples, Italy that claims to have the best chestnuts in the world. His passion for soccer, for his adoptive city and his Nor’easters is palpable. “This isn’t a business for me. It’s about the game, about togetherness and family…and most of all it’s about Ocean City.”


(The Nor'easters, in orange, knocked off AFC Ann Arbor of NPSL & Charlotte Independence of USL)

The Nor’easters have existed, in one form or another, for the last 22 years. They now compete in the Premier Development League (PDL) – an all-amateur summer league whose sole aim is to groom top-class college players to take the next step up and into the professional ranks. That’s clearly the case in Ocean City, a club with pedigree and no trouble attracting the cream of the collegiate crop. Veteran of the 2012 squad Tyler Miller, is now lining up with LAFC in Major League Soccer (MLS), and a whole host of Nor’easters alumni dot the Division II USL ranks. But there’s something more than just boot-camp going on here at the Jersey Shore.

The players all live together in a house steps from the ocean. They play their home games in the heart of tourist season at Carey Stadium (aka ‘The Beach House’) – there’s no soccer field closer to the ocean in the whole country. The Nor’easters become, in a very real way, a part of the community that grows from a population of just over 10,000 in the off-season to ten times that in June, July and August when the sun shines brightest. The players get recognized on the two-and-a-half miles of boardwalk and they mingle in the community in a way that most PDL players don’t. “I think we win because of the togetherness we bring as a family and as a city and a club,” said Granese, who runs the Nor’easters as a labor of love with his wife and his son (and General Manager) Giancarlo Jr. “All the kids who come in have host families looking out for them and every summer there’s a huge connection between the people of the town and the players.”

Proven Results on the Pitch
All that has translated into huge success on the field. They’ve won two PDL Eastern Conference titles in the last six years and are annually among the best teams in the league alongside Reading United of Pennsylvania and the Michigan Bucks out of Pontiac. But most of all, the Nor’easters have become known as giant-killers in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup by knocking off a raft of professional teams in recent years.

“I have too many great memories to count from my time with the club, and most of them are around the Open Cup,” said current head coach John Thompson, an Englishman and former Nor’easters captain. A two-time PDL Defender of the Year, he’s been involved – as a player or a coach – in five of the team’s six victories over professional opponents in America’s oldest soccer tournament. He was on the field in 2004 (the team went undefeated in league play that year) in an 8-4 loss to the Richmond Kickers that he calls “the wildest game” he ever played in, and again in 2009 when they met DC United of MLS and held them until the 70th minute. In 2013, they were on their way to a 1-0 win in the 90th minute against Philadelphia Union only to be undone by a 90th-minute equalizer that forced extra-time.


(Carey Stadium aka the Beach House - not a bad spot to spend your soccer summer)

With a pair of wins under their belt in the current competition (a 3-0 win over NPSL’s AFC Ann Arbor in the First Round and a 3-1 win over full USL pros Charlotte Independence last week) the Nor’easters are one win away from meeting MLS opposition for a third time in this year’s Fourth Round.

Along with the ideal locale, the sunny weather and all the fun there is to be had on the Jersey Shore in summertime – the team’s reputation as giant-killers is among the biggest draws of top talent to the Nor’easters. “We all want to be pros ourselves and so these are the games we’ve got to show we’ve got what it takes,” said Sam Jones, an English center-back who had to fly to Michigan for the First Round game against Ann Arbor and fly right out again after the final whistle to get back in time for final exams. Liam Bennett, a busy midfielder from Leeds, also cherishes the opportunities inherent in playing (and beating) pros. “It doesn’t matter who we play, we want to start every game sharp and bright. We want to get right in their face right away, and if we get to play an MLS team, we’ll do it just that same way – we’ll be right up for it.”

Between now and that dream tie with an unnamed MLS side, is a tough test – and their third straight game on the road – against North Carolina FC of the USL. If the Nor’easters are giant-killers, NCFC might be giant-killer-killers as they showed in their 3-0 rout of Lansdowne Bhoys, reigning double national amateur cup champs. The game will be a homecoming of sorts for UNC goalkeeper Alec Smir, Carolina born and raised. His parents and friends will be among the crowd at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. on Tuesday night, but he’s got only one thing on his mind. “We all have aspirations to go pro,” said the net-minder who was a busy young man in the dying moments of the win over Charlotte Independence when the home side poured on the pressure in a desperate attempt to get level. “So we just want to show what we can do to achieve that dream of playing an MLS team – and who knows what can happen then?” 

Pros in Training
Coach Thompson has every faith in his players’ own professionalism. They may not be pros yet, but they’re ready for it. They know what it takes. He bristles when asked if it’s a tough job to keep all the boys calm on the big day. After all, they’re scouted hard and hand picked not just for their talent - character and experience both come into play in the year-long hunt by the Ocean City coaching staff. “Every time you go on the field, whether it’s against Charlotte or Manchester United, you’ve got to back yourself as a player,” he said. “You have to believe that you can man up and get it done.”


(Ocean City's Nor'easters have beaten 6 pro teams in their Open Cup history - and played MLS sides twice)

Man up, they may. But these are boys, some of them still in their teens. “That’s why we have our training sessions at 10 a.m. every day,” Thompson said with a chuckle, knowing the lure of the shore and the call of summer fun to youngsters. “We’re professional about what we’re doing and we expect a very high standard from the players. As long as they meet that and do what they’re meant to do, we don’t mind what they get up to. It’s the Jersey Shore after all and it’s a lot of fun here. They need to have their fun too.”

According to the players, spending so much time in close quarters helps their cause every year. “Our house is right on the beach and that’s great,” said Smir, the team’s outstanding goalkeeper. “After those first few days, everyone clicks. And you can see that spilling over out on to the field too.” Jones, when asked if they’ll all be sick of each other by the end of the summer, is quick with a joke and a smile: “Some of us are sick already!”

In all, it does feel like a family – special, imperfect and worth protecting. “It’s nice to see a lot of our boys go on to the pros,” said Granese, who watches a new group come to town every May and speaks of them like a proud papa might. “Just when you lose faith in the young people of the world, these guys show up and they’re smart, sharp, good and quick – and I can’t help think: this country’s in good shape after all.”

(Some video footage courtesy of SNJToday)
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U.S. Open Cup May 22, 2018
US Soccer

The Dream Continues: #USOC2018 Third Round Preview

Nine surviving amateur teams from last week’s Second Round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are in action again this Tuesday and Wednesday (May 22 and 23) – and they’re all one win away from booking dates with clubs from Major League Soccer (MLS), the American game’s top professional tier. With a pair of the 12 Third Round matches being contested by two amateur sides, we’re guaranteed at least two games in the Fourth Round between MLS' big boys and part-timers from farther on down the trough.

Nine Survivors Hunt Glory & Cupsets
Ocean City Nor’easters, out of the Premier Development League, are back in the Third Round with their giant-killing reputation as strong as ever. They’re coached by former captain John Thompson, who’s been involved – on either side of the touchline – in five of the team’s six wins over pro clubs in their Open Cup history. “We put our heart and soul into this club,” said the former PDL Defender of the Year who got his tactics right in the last round against United Soccer League (USL) pros Charlotte Independence and is now one win away from seeing his Nor’easters up against MLS opposition for a third time. “Whether it’s Charlotte or Man United, you always need to back yourselves as players – you’ve got to believe you can man up and get it done.”


(Liam Bennett - left, in orange - of OC Nor'easters in First Round USOC action in Ann Arbor)

The Nor’easters will need to man up in a big way if they’re going to get the bulge on North Carolina FC of USL, who made light work of national amateur champions Lansdowne Bhoys in the last round. It’s the third game on the road for the boys from the Jersey Shore, who only just arrived at camp a few weeks ago from their various colleges.

Jacksonville Armada and Miami United FC are in action in an all-Florida/all-NPSL clash in the northeastern corner of the Sunshine State. The Armada, a part of the North American Soccer League in last year’s Open Cup, will fancy their chances against their neighbors to the south who knocked out 2017 Open Cup quarterfinalists Miami FC.


(Miami United FC laid down firm roots in South Florida - and they were simply better than Miami FC in the last round)

Elm City Express are rare entrants to the Open Cup from the city of New Haven in south central Connecticut. The first-year NPSL team (and reigning champs) are comprised of local talent from the area’s many institutes of higher learning – among them Post University in Waterbury, UConn, the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut, Southern Connecticut, Quinnipiac, and Sacred Heart. Though they’re likely to give it the old college try, they’ll need more than enthusiasm to get past a road date with Charleston Battery – the last non-MLS team to reach an Open Cup Final (2008). The Battery are loaded with talent and all full-pros, but they made heavy lifting of their 1-0 win over PDL side South Georgia Tormenta in the last round. The Third Round contest will be the Express’ first game in the current Open Cup against a professional side, having beaten Western Mass Pioneers and Seacoast United Phantoms (both of the PDL) in the previous rounds. It’s also a third away-game on the bounce for the boys from the Elm City.

Mississippi Brilla, an amateur team out of the PDL that doubles as a Christian ministry, were one of the big shockers of the Second Round. A team that draws talent from all over the world (39 different nationalities have worn Brilla baby-blue through the years) upended USL pros Indy Eleven with an 82nd-minute lone goal. This time they’re away from their home stadium and up against a second straight USL pro team in Nashville SC, who knocked out cross-town NPSL neighbors Inter Nashville FC last week.


(Nashville SC's fans are up for the Cup after beating city rivals Inter Nashville in the Second Round)

NTX Rayados and FC Wichita meet in an all-amateur affair in Dallas with the winner guaranteed a game against MLS opposition in the Fourth Round. Wichita play out of the NPSL and boast a stable of talented players like the Tayou Brothers (Uzi and Frank) and silky Brazil-born creator Leo Sosa. A club with as much investment and resources as many of their professional counterparts, the Kansans will nevertheless be up against it when they meet the in-form Rayados. The Texans steamrolled over OKC Energy FC in the previous round after an extra-time goal spree that saw the game end 5-2 and Christian Okeke score his third goal of the tournament. Having gone out in the First Round of the last three installments, it took the Rayados until 2018 to win their first Open Cup game. Now they’re bound and determined to keep their run going as far as it will take them.

Sporting Arizona FC are lone survivors from the all-amateur United Premier Soccer League (UPSL). Their shootout win in the Second Round over USL pros Phoenix Rising was one of the most impressive giant-killing performances on the 24-game schedule. Much of the credit goes to goalkeeper Andrew Weber, who won an MLS Cup in 2015 as a back-up with the Portland Timbers, and was in the form of his life on the outskirts of Phoenix in an Open Cup upset for the ages. “Of course [Weber’s] talented and he can keep the ball out of the net,” said Sporting’s coach Aidan Davison, a former English Premier League goalkeeper. “But he’s also a great mentor for the young guys in the team. He’s somewhere between a player and a coach for us.”


(Sporting Arizona FC brought the thunder against USL's Phoenix Rising in the last round)

FC Golden State Force, the PDL team out of Whittier, California, flew into the 2018 Open Cup under the radar. They rolled over SoCal amateur powers LA Wolves in the First Round before repeating the act against USL pros Orange County SC (4-2) in the Second Round. Up next, they host USL full-timers Las Vegas Lights – a colorful all-pro side with a pair of live llamas as mascots and one Freddy Adu in the squad.

All-Pro Action Elsewhere
While the underdogs hog the spotlight in the 2018 Open Cup’s Third Round, there’s a series of all-USL contests to fill out the schedule. Last year’s Cinderella side FC Cincinnati, who went on a run to the Semifinals and drew huge crowds to their Nippert Stadium, are on the road against fellow USL side the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The men from Pittsburgh arrived by edging out Erie Commodores of NPSL last week and have a proud Open Cup tradition in America’s oldest soccer tournament, having gone to the Quarterfinals of the 2001 Open Cup as members of the now-defunct A-League.

 
(FC Cincinnati went to the Semifinals of #USOC2017 & started strong with a win over Detroit City this year)

Louisville City of USL ran over PDL’s Long Island Rough Riders in their Second Round opener, scoring five unanswered goals. Their reward is a home game in the Third Round against fellow USL rivals St Louis FC, who didn’t have things all their own way in the game against Duluth FC up in Minnesota, but still managed to a 2-0 win on the day. 

The Richmond Kickers look to keep up the form after avenging last year’s early exit with a hard-fought shootout win over PDL side Reading United in the Second Round last week. The 1995 champion Kickers, a club for 25 years (among the oldest continually operating pro clubs in the country), now play hosts to Penn FC at their City Stadium in Virginia. “We’re set up for a good run in the Open Cup this year,” said coach Leigh Cowlishaw, a member of the young Richmond side who lifted the Open Cup in 1995. Penn FC, for their part, had a long night in their opener, eventually edging out FC Motown of the NPSL in the Second Round. 


(The Richmond Kickers went toe-to-toe with Reading United in the last round - and needed PKs to win the day)

San Antonio FC, who hammered NPSL side Midland-Odessa Sockers 4-0 in the last round, open their doors to Colorado Springs Switchbacks (also of USL), who had to huff and puff to get the better of amateur debutants FC Denver 3-2 last week. The last of the 12 Third Round contests pits Sacramento Republic, who went to the Fifth Round last year, on the road against Reno 1868 FC, who came back from an early deficit to destroy Portland Timbers U23 7-3 last week to reach the third stage. 

ussoccer.com is the official website of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and will provide a stream of as many Open Cup games as possible. Comprehensive video and written coverage of the tournament will also be available. You can follow the Open Cup on Twitter and Instagram @OpenCup and Facebook @OfficialOpenCup.

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U.S. Open Cup May 21, 2018
US Soccer

Get to Know the Three First-Time MNT Call-Ups in Philadelphia

Carrying an average age of just under 23, the U.S. Men’s National Team roster that has convened in Philadelphia is one of the youngest in recent memory. As some of the USA’s most exciting young prospects earn invitations to try and prove themselves with the senior team, three new players have been called for their first camp and will look to earn their first caps against Bolivia at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa. on May 28 (6:30 p.m. ET; FS1, UniMás and UDN).

Meet the three newbies:

ALEJANDRO GUIDO | MIDFIELDER | TIJUANA (MEX)

Founded in 2007, Tijuana is a young club and Alejandro Guido currently stands as its longest-tenured player. At just 24, he’s also one of its youngest. Guido joined Los Xolos in 2012 when he turned 18. Tijuana took home its first title that season, and across Guido’s six years with the club he’s crossed paths with fellow MNT players like Paul Arriola, Joe Corona, Michael Orozco and Rubio Rubin.

A San Diego native, Guido grew up on both sides of the border. He played a key role for the

U-17 Men’s National Team in 2011 through Concacaf World Cup qualifying in Jamaica and the ensuing FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico. After an extended trial at Dutch Eredivisie side Vitesse, Guido signed with Tijuana over offers from college and Major League Soccer. He spent a brief spell with the Xolos U-20s upon signing, but made his first-team debut early that season on August 22, 2012. While he’s struggled with injury during the course of his time in Tijuana, this season Guido logged the most minutes of his professional career as he helped Los Xolos to the Clausura championship semifinals.

“Alejandro is a guy that has also been in our youth system and played some prominent minutes for Tijuana in a season where they did very well,” said head coach Dave Sarachan. “He’s primarily a holding midfielder and another young player that has endured quite well under pressure in an environment like Tijuana.”

KEATON PARKS | MIDFIELDER | BENFICA (POR) 

Keaton Parks spent the 2017-18 season trying to ingrain himself into the future plans for one of Portugal’s biggest clubs. Taking an untraditional pathway to Europe, Parks and his towering 6-4 frame starred for Benfica’s B squad this season while making several appearances for the first team.

Parks hails from the Dallas suburbs, where he participated in high school soccer for three years. He played youth club soccer for a local Liverpool affiliate before making appearances for the club’s NPSL team. A coach there helped Parks earn trials with several Portuguese squads, and he caught the eye of second division side Varzim when his club played at a tournament hosted in the Portuguese city.

Originally committed to play college at Southern Methodist University, Parks signed with Varzim. After a short stint with the B squad, he earned a spot as a regular contributor during the 2016-17 season. The following summer, Parks signed with Benfica, historically the Primeira Liga’s most successful club. Across 33 appearances for the reserves and the full team, Parks has proved to be smooth on the ball and dangerous on the dribble. The 20-year-old has made a strong enough impression with the Águias that he inked a contract that will keep him at the club through 2022. 

“He saw a lot of minutes with their “B” team this season, and he’s also received opportunities with the first team,” Sarachan said. “That upped his profile to a point where we took a closer look at him. We also saw a guy that could play in a number of midfield positions. He’s a player with good size and strength who is good in the air and possesses good technical ability.”

MATTHEW OLOSUNDE | DEFENDER | MANCHESTER UNITED (ENG)

Matthew Olosunde grew up in Trenton, N.J. A few short years ago, he was the beneficiary of Mooch Soccer, a non-profit organization found in honor of former MNT assistant coach Glenn “Mooch” Myernick that gives inner-city kids in the Garden State a chance to play soccer. Now, he’s wrapping up his second year in Manchester United’s youth set-up and making a lifelong dream come true as he reports for his first senior MNT camp.

After playing locally in Trenton, Olosunde joined the New York Red Bulls Academy at age 14. The club upgrade created a tough commute for Olosunde, driving an hour each way from Trenton to the Red Bulls’ facilities. As he worked his way up through the RBNY youth program, Olosunde impressed and earned an invite to the U-17 MNT Residency in Bradenton, Fla. He represented the USA at the U-17 level in both Concacaf World Cup qualifying and the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile.

Olosunde was signed to play soccer at Duke University when European clubs came calling after the World Cup. He seized the opportunity to sign with EPL giant Manchester United in March 2016. After a strong showing with the Red Devils’ U-18 side, he established himself as a stalwart in the U-23 starting line-up last year. His youth successes have seen him earn numerous opportunities to travel and train with the first team.  

“He’s been on our radar as a young defender for a number of years,” Sarachan said. “He’s a versatile defender that can play anywhere on the back line. He possesses good size and strength. In the case of all three players, the combination of their form along with them finishing their club seasons made this a good time to bring them into camp.”

WATCH: Olosunde Dazzles at 2017 Dallas Cup

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MNT May 21, 2018
US Soccer

Miami United Take Root in Shifting Soil

Soon after arriving in Miami in 2005, Roberto Sacca noticed something missing. There was plenty of soccer talent around, but a dearth of professional teams. So, a few years later he and a group of friends started up a club of their own: Miami United FC.

“We created the team as a joke,” Sacca said while preparing for a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Third Round trip north to take on the Jacksonville Armada. “Then, of course, we have to put up the money and purchase a franchise. NPSL [National Premier Soccer league] was the cheapest but my friends, who were supposed to put up the money, didn’t, so that’s why I did it.”


(Miami United are one win away from meeting an MLS team in the 2018 Open Cup)

From the days of the Miami Gatos in the early 1970s, soccer franchises have struggled in South Florida. Sacca, who grew up in Sicily, heard all the doubters loud and clear. “When we started, everyone was telling me, ‘Rob, you’re crazy,’” Sacca said. “Miami Fusion [of MLS] had failed. Miami FC too, with Romario [former Brazilian World Cup winner], you remember?

“In 2012, there was nothing here. Then, the first tryout, we had 120 guys and we selected 20. We started growing and, in 2013, we were champions of Florida. In 2016, we brought Adriano [former Brazil international] here to help us put Miami United and NPSL on the soccer map. The tryouts we did with Adriano, we had 400 people – players from all over the world: Brazil, Venezuela, France, Trinidad & Tobago – they came from all over.”

Adriano: Fanfare & a False Start
Former Inter forward Adriano Leite Ribeiro arrived with a flurry of publicity, but was clearly at the end of his playing days. Sacca, though, did not consider the acquisition a failure. “It was a positive experience,” he said. “Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it and he left. But we got a lot of recognition and reached people all over the world. And, last April 27, Miami Dade County declared Miami United Day and gave me the key to the county. That was the best recognition I’ve ever gotten.”


(Miami United FC have avoided many of the pitfalls that plagued previous teams in South Florida)

Miami United FC compiled a 3-2-3 record in its first NPSL season in 2013; won the Sunshine Conference with a 7-3-0 record in 2014; went unbeaten in 2015 (6-0-4) and 2016 (9-0-1); and hit the 7-4-1 mark in 2017. This year, Miami United are off to a 3-0-2 start in the NPSL, and also advanced past the First Round of the Open Cup for the third time in three tries.

Colombian David Ochoa, 26, leads the way on the field, tallying five goals as Miami United beat locals FC Kendall 5-2 and Miami FC 3-1 so far in the Open Cup. “Every year we get better, and this year we have the strongest team in our history,” Sacca said. “We have a couple of young talents already being scouted by Serie A in Italy. Ochoa is very talented, fast, a very strong player who can play in Serie A, for sure. Gabrielle Privitera is 19 years old, from Venezuela. He doesn’t want to go on to college, and a couple teams are interested in bringing him to the next level.”


(Adriano, second from left, had a brief stint with Miami United FC)

Ochoa played for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and was recommended by Ferdinando Di Mattheis, who helped bring Giuseppe Rossi to Europe, and also coached Miami United. “Ochoa is a phenomenon, I was surprised he hasn’t been in MLS,” Miami United coach Gerardo La Vieja Reinoso said. “He has the characteristics for Europe, he’s technical and grandote [physical presence], you know what I mean? He has football in his blood. Give him freedom and he resolves situations.

“Privitera is also talented, speedy with the ball at his feet,” the coach went on about the raft of impressive players at his disposal. “He’s young and he’s growing, he has the ability to create, and he can be a good player.”

Reinoso, a star with Independiente in Argentina in the ‘80s, continued his playing career in Chile where he made a connection with former Chilean FA executive Miguel Nasur, now president of Miami United. “Maybe nobody knows [Reinoso] here, but he’s a legend in South America,” Sacca said. “He has the character we need. He’s like one of the players, he trains with them. You see him putting his heart in this project.”


(Members of Miami United don't consider their USOC 2nd Round win over Miami FC an upset)

Miami United has knocked off one former North American Soccer League (NASL) team in Miami FC, who went to the Quarterfinals of last year’s Open Cup, and will likely be considered the underdog against Jacksonville, another former NASL team. “Jacksonville is going to be tough,” Sacca said. “Like Miami FC – one of their players gets paid what we have for our total budget, players and office staff.”

Work by Day; Soccer by Night
Miami United has an annual budget of about $500,000, high for a semi-pro/amateur team, according to Sacca. “We are investing in developing a dream for the players and, hopefully, we can give some players an opportunity to go to the next level,” Sacca said. “Basically, the Miami area has a lot of talent. The only thing missing is the mentality. Some players don’t find the right spot. There are a lot of teams around now so we’re working the last few years in selecting the best players in the area and helping them out with a little reimbursement per month. In the past I was bringing in players from Europe, but I realized we have to change the mentality of players here and let them feel they’re in a very serious club, so we can bring a professional mentality to them.”


(Miami United have gone from strength to strength in their short life as a semi-pro club)

Miami United’s players don’t consider their Cup victory over Miami FC an upset, according to forward Vinicius Tupan. “Actually, I think Miami United is much better than Miami FC,” Tupan, 22, said. “We played better than they did.”

Tupan works construction by day, then joins the team for training at Ted Hendricks Stadium nightly. Tupan and Miami United defender Daniel Navarro were born in Massachusetts and grew up in Brazil, playing together at Nacional in Curitiba as youngsters. “For sure, this team is going to grow year by year and, maybe, we’re going to be a big team,” Tupan said. “We already are, right? The objective is to do well in the U.S. Open Cup and, maybe, play against an MLS team [possibly Orlando City SC] and maybe we can be a tough game for them. All games against Miami United will be tough.” 

Miami United has outlasted many of South Florida’s soccer enterprises, including MLS’ Miami Fusion (1998-2001). Sacca, for one, is eager for the American top-flight to return under David Beckham’s direction. “I always believed in this project,” Sacca said of Beckham’s approved plan to bring an MLS franchise to the Miami area – and just one win away from his own team facing off with a top-tier pro side in the Open Cup. “I mean, the only difference between MLS teams and our teams, is some of our players are working in the morning. But we know that we can compete with them, absolutely. If we go to Orlando City or Kansas City, you’re not going to see them kick us, 4-0. If we lose, fine, but the difference is not going to be that much.
Read more
U.S. Open Cup May 20, 2018

Schedule

Results

Date Matchup Result Venue Attendance Goal Scorers
0-4 L Gradisca, Italy
4-4 D 6-5 Gradisca, Italy Hilton, De la Fuente, Rivas, Segal
2-1 W Gradisca, Italy de la Fuente, Palomino
2-2 D Gradisca, Italy Arriaga, Rivas
1-2 L Gradisca, Italy Llanez

2016 Tournament Delle Nazioni

PLAYER POS. HT. WT. BIRTHDATE HOMETOWN CLUB/COLLEGE
F 5-6 115 Santa Rosa, California Santa Rosa
D 5-10 135 Napa, Calif. Real Salt Lake
M 5-8 145 Eden, Utah Real Salt Lake
D 5-5 120 Lincoln Park, New Jersey Players Development Academy
GK 6-1 160 Southwest Ranches, Fla. Weston FC
F 5-7 130 Barcelona, Spain Barcelona (Spain)
D 5-3 115 Littleton, Colorado Colorado Rush
M Roseville, Calif. Sacramento Republic FC
D 5-3 125 Long Beach, California Unattached
F 5-3 110 Lynwood, Calif. LA Galaxy
F Coconut, Fla. Flamengo
D 5-7 136 Huntington Station, N.Y. New York City FC
M 5-5 130 Houston, Texas Houston Dynamo
M Wenonah, N.J. Philadelphia Union
GK 5-7 120 New York, New York New York Red Bulls
F 5-4 120 Weston, Florida Weston FC
F 5-7 125 Bethesda, Maryland Bethesda-Olney
D 5-11 119 Corona, Calif. LA Galaxy
D 5-8 145 Miami Beach, Florida Weston FC
M 5-9 159 Savannah, Ga. Unattached

2016 Tournament Delle Nazioni

Luis Arriaga

Position:
Forward

Height:
5-6

Weight:
115

Birthdate:

Position:
Forward

Hometown:
Santa Rosa, California

Club:
Santa Rosa

Eduardo Blancas

Position:
Defender

Height:
5-10

Weight:
135

Birthdate:

Position:
Defender

Hometown:
Napa, Calif.

Club:
Real Salt Lake

Taylor Booth

Position:
Midfielder

Height:
5-8

Weight:
145

Birthdate:

Position:
Midfielder

Hometown:
Eden, Utah

Club:
Real Salt Lake

Dominic De Almeida

Position:
Defender

Height:
5-5

Weight:
120

Birthdate:

Position:
Defender

Hometown:
Lincoln Park, New Jersey

Club:
Players Development Academy

Nicolas Defreitas-Hansen

Position:
Goalkeeper

Height:
6-1

Weight:
160

Birthdate:

Position:
Goalkeeper

Hometown:
Southwest Ranches, Fla.

Club:
Weston FC

Konrad de la Fuente

Position:
Forward

Height:
5-7

Weight:
130

Birthdate:

Position:
Forward

Hometown:
Barcelona, Spain

Club:
Barcelona (Spain)

Luke Hansen

Position:
Defender

Height:
5-3

Weight:
115

Birthdate:

Position:
Defender

Hometown:
Littleton, Colorado

Club:
Colorado Rush

Roberto Hategan

Position:
Midfielder

Position:
Midfielder

Hometown:
Roseville, Calif.

Club:
Sacramento Republic FC

John Hilton

Position:
Defender

Height:
5-3

Weight:
125

Birthdate:

Position:
Defender

Hometown:
Long Beach, California

Club:
Unattached

Ulysses Llanez

Position:
Forward

Height:
5-3

Weight:
110

Birthdate:

Position:
Forward

Hometown:
Lynwood, Calif.

Club:
LA Galaxy

Nicholas Mendonca

Position:
Forward

Position:
Forward

Hometown:
Coconut, Fla.

Club:
Flamengo

Alexsi Morel

Position:
Defender

Height:
5-7

Weight:
136

Birthdate:

Position:
Defender

Hometown:
Huntington Station, N.Y.

Club:
New York City FC

Marcelo Palomino

Position:
Midfielder

Height:
5-5

Weight:
130

Birthdate:

Position:
Midfielder

Hometown:
Houston, Texas

Club:
Houston Dynamo

Michael Pellegrino

Position:
Midfielder

Position:
Midfielder

Hometown:
Wenonah, N.J.

Club:
Philadelphia Union

Alex Rando

Position:
Goalkeeper

Height:
5-7

Weight:
120

Birthdate:

Position:
Goalkeeper

Hometown:
New York, New York

Club:
New York Red Bulls

Jose Rivas

Position:
Forward

Height:
5-4

Weight:
120

Birthdate:

Position:
Forward

Hometown:
Weston, Florida

Club:
Weston FC

Gabriel Segal

Position:
Forward

Height:
5-7

Weight:
125

Birthdate:

Position:
Forward

Hometown:
Bethesda, Maryland

Club:
Bethesda-Olney

Leonardo Sepulveda

Position:
Defender

Height:
5-11

Weight:
119

Birthdate:

Position:
Defender

Hometown:
Corona, Calif.

Club:
LA Galaxy

Sebastian Serpa

Position:
Defender

Height:
5-8

Weight:
145

Birthdate:

Position:
Defender

Hometown:
Miami Beach, Florida

Club:
Weston FC

Indiana Vassilev

Position:
Midfielder

Height:
5-9

Weight:
159

Birthdate:

Position:
Midfielder

Hometown:
Savannah, Ga.

Club:
Unattached

Team GP W L T GF GA GD Pts.
Slovenia
3
2 0 1 6 3 3 7
Croatia
3 1 1 1 4 5 -1
4
USA
3 1 1 1 5 5 0 4
Brazil
3 0 2 1 4 6 -2 1

USA Schedule

Date Match Time (ET)/Result Venue
April 25 USA vs. Croatia
1-2 L
Vipolze; Slovakia
April 26
Slovenia vs. USA
2-2 D
Bilje; Slovakia
April 27
Brazil vs. USA
1-2 W
Vova Gorica; Slovkia




2016 13th Tournament Delle Nazioni Statistics


Record: 0-1-1

Player

GP

GS

Min.

G

A

Pts

Y/R

Luis Arriaga 2 2 105 1 1 3 0/0
Eduardo Blancas 2 1 92 0 0 0 0/0
Taylor Booth 2 2 134 0 0 0 0/0
Dominic De Almeida 1 0 35 0 0 0 0/0
Nicholas Defreitas-Hansen 1 1 70 0 0 0 0/0
Konrad De la Fuente 2 1 85 0 0 0 0/0
Luke Hansen 2 2 140 0 0 0 0/0
Roberto Hategan 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
John Hilton 2 2 140 0 0 0 0/0
Ulysses Llanez 2 1 54 1 0 2 0/0
Nicholas Mendonca 1 0 15 0 0 0 0/0
Alexsi Morel 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0
Marcelo Palomino 2 2 121 0 2 2 0/0
Michael Pellegrino 2 1 83 0 0 0 0/0
Alex Rando 1 1 70 0 0 0 0/0
Jose Rivas 2 1 57 1 0 2 0/0
Gabe Segal 2 1 74 0 0 0 0/0
Leonardo Sepulveda 2 2 102 0 0 0 1/1
Sebastian Serpa 1 1 70 0 0 0 0/0
















Own Goal


Totals

2/2 2/2 140 3 3 9 1/1

Opponent Totals

2/2 2/2 140 4 0 8 2/0

2016 13th Tournament Delle Nazioni Goalkeeping Statistics

Player Name

GP

GS

Min.

GF

GA

SO

GAA

W-L-T

Nicholas Defreitas-Hansen 1 1 70 1 2 0 2.00 0-1-0
Alex Rando 1 1 70 2 2 0 2.00 0-0-1









Totals

2 2 140 3 4 0 2.00 0-1-1

Opponent Totals

2 2 140 4 3 0 1.50 1-0-1

Updated through April 27, 2016

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