The refuse to lose tour marches on. Steadfast as ever, Miami FC had to do a bit more today than simply not take the L. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup reached the Round of 16 and it brought Atlanta United FC to South Florida. Of course, that also means a Miami must-win to advance. Atlanta is the second MLS team the blue and orange faced in this tournament and the second they attempted to get past, but Miami’s run has been so much more impressive and intricate than that.

“The refuse to lose tour marches on.”

Miami hasn’t lost a match since April 8th. What’s more, in this calendar year, it is the only match they have lost. A 9-3-1 record has Miami comfortably in first place of the NASL, a full 7 points ahead of the second place team (San Francisco Deltas). As far as the U.S. Open Cup, well, Miami has dominated that as well. Their latest and most important accomplishment came at Orlando and at the expense of Orlando City SC. A 3-1 victory up in Orlando City Stadium saw Miami notch their biggest franchise win to advance in the Cup. However, in a season Miami has placed an obvious emphasis on not only winning, but dominance, the hometown squad has managed to prove their superior level of play is not only good enough to lead the NASL, they simply will not to be outmatched by the MLS opponents either. These accolades alone sufficiently explain the remarkable run they’ve been on, but add to it the schedule they’ve endured in the process and the awe will truly hit you. Take Miami’s last five matches into account. A trip to Canada, along with two respective matches against the teams – at the time – occupying the second place spot in the NASL, have highlighted the last three Saturdays for the South Florida team. Sprinkle in two MLS opponents on Open Cup Wednesdays and that is just some intense shit.

Enzo Rennella fights for position on a set piece early.

The game started out innocently enough, but boy, would that not last. The MLS talent of Atlanta was evident on the field. Early on, possession was mostly Atlanta’s and a few players stood out, Andrew Carleton, most noticeably, who was so fast and so, so shifty. However, shit starts going down in the 35th minute, everything previous was the calm before the storm. Believe you me when I say this was the type of edge-of-you-seat, rapid-fire, head-turning, nail-biting game that wouldn’t even allow a single trip to empty the bladder. In the 35th minute, Atlanta got the party started. Kevin Kratz bent in a set piece and a header by Brandon Vazquez beat Miami GK Daniel Vega to his right. Advantage: Atlanta. Two minutes later, though, the man was back at it. Anyone here familiar with Stefano Pinho’s work in the Cup? I mean, all he did was drop a hat trick that simultaneously dropped Orlando right out of the tournament. Let me say this, dude was on fire today. Pinho received a ball near the top of the box as Poku’s powerful run – both were constant themes tonight – drew the attention of two defenders. A set-up touch right and a beautiful bender to the back of the net had this baby tied up. Game on, bitches!

There was very little methodical or slow paced about this match. The play on the field left nothing to be desired. The kind of satisfying and thoroughly entertaining soccer that was up and down the pitch with lots of opportunities and through balls for both squads. The quality of play was amazing, the stands were rocking, and good times were had by all. The other side of halftime saw Rhett Bernstein send all 9,004 fans in the stands, and thousands more at home, into a frenzy. A Hunter Freeman free-kick was deflected just enough by Bernstein in the box and it left Atlanta GK Alec Kann totally frozen. Advancing to the next level of the U.S. Open Cup was in sight for Miami, but Atlanta wouldn’t let up. For the second match in a row, our boy Poku was on the wrong end of a foul call. Luckily, this one did not result in a red card, Miami needed him later. However, it did make the referee blow his whistle, and a penalty was awarded to Atlanta in the 74th minute. The subsequent goal in the 75th by Julian Gressel ripped the fucking hearts out of the South Florida crowd. Hope was not lost, though.

This is the only thing of importance and nothing else. Let’s not mess around. Three minutes of added time were awarded before a possible extra time for 30 minutes (two 15-minute halves) culminating in penalty kicks, if needed. As the end of the 93rd minute was approaching… IT. FUCKING. HAPPENED! Seemingly, Poku had one last burst in him even after a full game. He streaked past the last line of defense as Vincenzo Rennella found him on the counter-attack. He had one man to beat as he powered his way into the box and it was basically 1 v 2. Stumbling and seemingly understanding of the moment, Poku managed to tap one past the goalie, off the Atlanta defender, and it slowly bounced its way into the back of the net. Cut to: bedlam! Insanity powered the stands as the bleachers were shaking, the lights in the Beer Garden were nearly ripped off, and the celebration on the field fully captured the significance of the match.

The final whistle blew and Miami FC once again advanced to the next round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. We now know they will host FC Cincinnati – Cincy took out Chicago Fire in penalty kicks after a 0-0 tie followed 120 minutes – in the Quarterfinals. The refuse to lose tour lives on. This can now be deemed the biggest game and victory in Miami FC history, and as they so often do, Miami absolutely lived up to the moment in glorious victory.

For a complete photo gallery of this game, please CLICK HERE.

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Enrique Sierra
Enrique Sierra, Jr. is a writer, editor, and podcast co-host for Lemon City Live. A Miami, Florida sports fanatic just trying to live the dream.

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