By Jeff Helfrich/NPSL.com
On Saturday, The Miami FC forward Lloyd Sam will return to one of the cities where he found soccer success.
He’ll be looking for more in the National Premier Soccer League National Championship match between his club and New York Cosmos B. He scored 20 goals in 106 appearances with New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer (MLS) and won a Supporter’s Shield in the city during his 2012-2016 run.
“It’s crazy that I’m going back there,” Sam said. “It’s just good to be going back to a place I called home for so long. I’m really excited to be going back there. But it’s all about Miami FC. I’m not thinking about the past. I’m ready to win something with this club.”
Sam’s experience with The Miami FC since signing in January 2019 has been positive for him. He loves the group that Head Coach Paul Dalgish has put together. Sam has been making the effort with younger players to pass down experience gained from stops domestically, in Europe and in national team play.
The forward believes two of the biggest clubs at the level are The Miami FC and New York. The Cosmos being known world wide makes the Miami club get up even more for the high stakes matchup, even if they are defending champions. One of Sam’s motives is filling a hole in his decorated career.
“I think it would be amazing to beat them and get that trophy,” Sam said. “I haven’t actually won an MLS Cup or an actual trophy. I’ve won a Supporter’s Shield. But I haven’t actually won the end game. This would mean a lot to me.”
Sam and The Miami FC landed in the National Championship game after a 4-1 win over Cleveland SC in the semifinal round. New York advanced over ASC San Diego with a 2-0 shutout thanks in part to defender Ansi Agolli, an Albanian national that with a decorated career that includes stops in Albania, Switzerland, and a long stint in Azerbaijan with the club Qarabağ.
Agolli did not find it easy to leave Qarabağ after 154 appearances. But one factor was most important in his move to the Cosmos early this year. His family lives in New York.
“Finally we are together after many years,” Agolli said. “I played in Azerbaijan and spent many years away. We are together enjoying all of our free time. And they’re supporting me at matches and events. It’s been a good time.”
One of Agolli’s top career achievements is serving as captain for the Albanian National team. He’s scored three goals in 73 appearances with the club. At age 36, the games he’s played nationally have set him up for success throughout his career.
“It was a learning process,” Agolli said. “I’m still learning. Any game I play, I learn. But the high level when you play that, it gives you more experience. Now at this age, I have the experience that I need and I’m grateful for it.”
The chance to lead the New York defense to an NPSL National Championship this weekend is another factor that drove Agolli to sign on the dotted line at the beginning of this year.
“I saw a challenge in this team,” Agolli said. “Being in this championship week, this is what I was looking for. The challenge comes Saturday night.”
The NPSL National Championship will be decided on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 when New York Cosmos B host The Miami FC at 7:00 pm. at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, NY. The match will be streamed via MyCujoo at https://www.npsl.com.
Photo Credit: Matthew Levine/New York Cosmos and Orovio Photography