Scouting The Opponent: Miami FC

Cosmos look to take down league’s top team in semifinals
Published Nov 5, 2017

An old saying in sports is that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. 

The New York Cosmos will look to accomplish that feat on Sunday night, as they meet number one seed, Miami FC, in The Championship semifinals at Riccardo Silva Stadium.

The first team in NASL history to win both the Spring Season and Fall Season titles, Miami FC (21-6-5) had a Regular Season to remember. Among the records they set are, wins in a season (21), total goals (61), highest goal differential (+33), and most points in a Regular Season (69).

However, the Cosmos can savor in the fact that they’ve given Miami FC two of their five losses on the season. If New York wants to hand Miami FC a season-ending third loss, they will need to watch out for the following players.

Goalkeeper: Daniel Vega

The NASL’s Golden Glove winner has played in every minute of every game in goal for Miami FC. Over the 32 games in the Regular Season, Vega conceded just 28 goals for a .875 goals against average while posting a league-high 15 clean sheets.

The Cosmos have had success at times against the 33-year-old Argentine this season. After recording a clean sheet in the teams’ first meeting of the season on April 1 in Brooklyn, Vega gave up nine goals to the Cosmos over their final four meetings of the Regular Season.

Now one of the NASL’s most consistent goalkeepers, Vega began his career in Argentina and played there between 2005-12 before playing in Cyprus from 2013-15 and joining Miami FC for their inaugural season in 2016.

Defender: Hunter Freeman

One of the original members of the rebooted Cosmos, Hunter Freeman, will look to top his old club while trying to reach heights he previously achieved in New York. The 32-year-old Texan joined Miami FC from the Cosmos in September 2016 and has been a mainstay on the back line for the club ever since.

In 30 games this season, Freeman has the second most minutes out of any outfield player on Miami FC, only behind midfielder, Michael Lahoud, another former Cosmos player. His three assists are the most of any Miami defender, and his 1,717 total passes rank him fifth in the NASL.

On the defensive end, Freeman has won 21 of his 26 tackles, made 72 clearances, and blocked 11 shots on the season. If the Cosmos want to get shots on Vega, they will need to get through Freeman first.

Midfielder: Kwadwo Poku           

A midfielder who likes to attack, Kwadwo Poku, has shown that he enjoys playing against the New York Cosmos. While playing for New York City FC in 2015, Poku recorded a brace to put NYCFC up 2-0 over the Cosmos in U.S. Open Cup play. However, he was subbed out later that game as the Cosmos rallied to win in a shootout.

Since joining Miami FC in June 2016, Poku has scored two more goals against the Cosmos, one each during the 2016 and 2017 Regular Season. Overall, the Ghanaian is especially dangerous inside the box, as all seven of his goals have come from within the 18 this season while winning 16 of 19 tackles.

The 25-year-old began his NASL career for the Atlanta Silverbacks in 2014 before joining NYCFC in 2015. He has appeared in a couple games for the Ghana national team. If the Cosmos can hold off Poku and the talented Miami midfield, they will have a chance to get the win.

Forward: Stéfano Pinho

The NASL Golden Boot winner ran away with the title, and the competition wasn’t even close. Stéfano Pinho’s 17 goals were six ahead of the next highest player, and the 2017 season isn’t even the first time he’s won the award. In 2015 for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Pinho scored 16 goals to win the Golden Boot, as the Strikers reached The Championship semifinals. 

This season, Pinho has been dangerous whenever he has the ball. He is tied for second in the NASL with 58 shots. Over the final month of the Fall Season, he has scored five goals and added an assist on 10 shots on target.  

In the 2015 semifinals, Pinho and the Strikers faced the Cosmos in Brooklyn, and the Brazilian did not record a shot as the Cosmos earned a 2-1 win. If New York can keep Pinho away from goal as they did two seasons ago, they may be able to achieve a similar outcome.

New York will travel to South Florida to square off with Miami FC at Riccardo Silva Stadium on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. The game will be nationally-televised on beIN SPORTS (English), beIN SPORTS en Español (Spanish), and beIN SPORTS CONNECT (Digital).