Loudoun United went almost eight months between competitive matches and even had a reduced preseason to various cancellations, and the lack of exposure showed early, but the team was given an advantage they were unable to utilize and fell 2-1 to Miami FC in their first game of Atlantic Division competition.
Early on, Miami took advantage of an inexperienced backline, as Ariel Martinez sent a cross into the Loudoun box, where Paco Craig headed the ball over Wahab Ackwei towards Jermaine Fordah’s left. Fordah tipped a portion of it, but not enough to go into the net for a 1-0 Miami lead in the sixth minute, which would double almost immediately after, as Miami forward Pierre Da Silva muscled newly acquired Logan Panchot off the ball on the right. Ackwei poked the ball away from Da Silva, but it went off the Loudoun post to Fordah’s right and crossed the goal line for a quick 2-0 lead. The confidence returned to Loudoun moments later, as Massimo Ferrin sent Kairou Amoustapha in for a break, leaving Janos Loebe little option but to pull down Kairou, earning the fullback a red card after 14 minutes.
Loudoun had some trouble early on challenging goalkeeper Connor Sparrow, the closest opportunity being a Samson Sergi volley off the crossbar in the 34th minute. Kairou beat Ramon Del Campo to a Christiano Francois backpass in the 38th minute, but his second touch was too heavy and collected by Sparrow, as the team went into halftime down 2-0.
Following Ted Ku-DiPietro’s appearance for Nicky Downs at halftime, Loudoun saw an additional momentum boost of offense, with Ku-DiPietro slaloming past defenders and losing the ball to a toe-poke right to D.C. United loanee Jovanny Bolivar, whose shot went high for a corner kick, that Loudoun lobbied for a hand ball on, to no avail by referee Natalie Simon. Miami eventually found space on counterattacks, notably with Ackwei facing substitute Lamar Walker, who was generally neutralized, save for a pass to Lance Rozeboom in front of the goal, which was put wide. It took until the 82nd minute when Diego Gomez Ochoa intercepted an errand Miami pass and fed it to Amoustapha, who blasted it past Sparrow high and on the far side to cut the lead in half. Loudoun continued to press, notably a moment when Tyler Gabarra found himself in the box at close range, but the ball was eventually cleared, and Sergi continued to try and find shots also, most were off target. Loudoun eventually recorded 34 shots against the 10-man Miami squad, the fifth-best total all-time in USL history.
Loudoun (0-1-0) hosts New York Red Bulls II in their home opener on Tuesday, May 18 for their next game.
USL Championship Regular Season - Game 1
Miami FC 2 (Craig 6, Ackwei 7 (OG))
Loudoun United FC 1 (Amoustapha 82)
Miami (4231): Connor Sparrow; Sean McFarlane, Paco Craig, Ramon Del Campo, Janos Loebe; Lance Rozeboom, Boluwatife Akinyode; Devon Williams, Ariel Martinez (Luca Antonelli 24, Jahshaun Anglin 80), Christiano Francois (Adonijah Reid 61); Pierre Da Silva (Lamar Walker 45)
Loudoun (4231): Jermaine Fordah; Logan Panchot (Hassan Pinto 66), Wahab Ackwei, Timmy Mehl (C), Gaoussou Samake (Diego Gomez Ochoa 77), Jeremy Garay (Abdellatif Aboukoura 77), Nicky Downs (Ted Ku-DiPietro 45); Kairou Amoustapha, Massimo Ferrin (Tyler Gabarra 61), Jovanny Bolivar; Samson Sergi
Miami - Loebe 14 (RC), Francois 59, Reid 84, Walker 90+1
Loudoun - Sergi 53