Miami United FC will face quite the challenge when they take on the Lions of Orlando City SC on Wednesday night in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match. Luckily for the team from the south, midfielder Victor Pelae is up to the task.
“My expectations for the match against Orlando City are very high, it’s probably the most important game of our lives,” Pelae said. “We are ready and motivated for this game, and I can assure everyone that we will battle until the last minute to continue making history. We are not done yet, we are having an incredible season in NPSL as the number one team in the conference and making an incredible run in the cup. I just hope we can play a good game and leave with the conviction that we did our best.”
Pelae and Miami United FC reached this point in the cup through a trio of strong performances. The first round saw MUFC coast to a 5-1 victory over the PDL’s Kendall FC. Miami United FC continued to roll on against fellow NPSL member and derby opponent Miami FC with a 3-1 victory in the second round, with Pelae adding the insurance goal late into stoppage time to ensure United moved on. In the third round Miami United FC faced off with yet another Floridian NPSL squad in Jacksonville Armada FC, winning the match and advancing to the fourth round. All in all, Miami United FC’s whirlwind tour through the U.S. Open Cup has been a rewarding one for Pelae and the Brazilian midfielder is excited to have advanced this far and embraces the underdog title.
“It feels great (to advance this far), it is probably one of the best feelings I have ever had in my career so far,” Pelae said.” Being the underdogs makes everything so much better. We know that nobody thought we would make this far, and that is what motivates us to keep moving forward. Proving people wrong is what brought us together, and if we keep working hard as a team and putting everything on the field I believe we can keep surprising everyone. “
Pelae’s journey to this point has not been the easiest. Playing with the Armada FC in 2015, Palae suffered a season-ending injury and served as the team’s soccer operations manager. From there, the midfielder moved on to join a Fort Lauderdale Strikers quad that, coincidentally enough, defeated Orlando City in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Pelae has a number of experiences with Orlando City’s players, as he played with Orlando’s Victor “PC” Pagliari Giro in high school in Brazil, and played with Stefano Pinho during his time in Fort Lauderdale. Pelae has seen both PC and Pinho defeat Orlando City in the Open Cup during both 2016 and 2017, and now, “I hope to make my own story as they did and help Miami United qualify to the next round.”
In order to do that, Pelae will have to continue to create for his squad, opening up opportunities for himself and others to score. Additionally, Miami United FC have the benefit of the underdog and the motivation to show what they can do against the first division of U.S. Soccer.
“We are making history in the club and in the league as the first NPSL team to ever face an MLS side in the U.S. Open Cup, and I’m glad to be part of this,” Pelae said. “It’s a unique opportunity to face MLS opponents and to be seen. It’s an exposure that many of us has never dreamed of before, so as I mentioned before we have to make the best of this opportunity and do our best to represent our city and fans.”
And notably, Pelae will be able to represent his city and fans in front of his city and fans. Orlando City did not apply to host, Miami United FC did, so now the underdogs will have a chance to utilize some home cookin’ to their advantage and feed off the energy of their supporters. Another element to consider is Orlando City’s struggles in the Open Cup, as Orlando was knocked out in this very same round last year and recorded just one win in 2016.
With momentum, U.S. Open Cup experience and the home crowd all falling in Miami United FC’s favor, don’t count out Pelae and the South Florida upstarts just yet.
Contributor: Daniel Cermak/NPSL.com
Photo Credit: Andrea Yanez