It has been a minute.
Seriously, 2020 has been quite a ride thus far. And while we are not done with the pandemic and turmoil that have radically changed our reality over the last several months, soccer is back.
I have mixed feelings about all of this if I’m being completely transparent. On one hand, I’m ecstatic to have back a piece of normalcy. I’m elated to be able to tune in to the sport I love, the teams I love, and the players I love watching.
But, I’m also concerned. At what risk, and potentially price, are we getting these things back? It is for sure a delicate balance between the lives and livelihoods of everyone involved and I do not pretend to understand all of the nuances of this reality.
So, for now, I will do my best to help support this organization the best way I know how: with my money and my talents. And I encourage everyone else to do so as well.
If you have some extra cash to spend, buy some merch. Tune in to the matches on ESPN+. Support the Triumph sponsors and partners (and tell them you are doing so because they support the Triumph). Tweet, like, and comment on social media. Show the team and the players all the love.
Now, with all of that out of the way, we turn our focus to this Saturday. The Greenville Triumph travel to south Florida to help kickoff the delayed USL League One season against expansion side Fort Lauderdale CF. What should you watch for? Who will win? Will FLCF even be able to field a full team? Let’s break it all down.
What to Watch For:
- Year Two Begins: Many experts and pundits were high on Greenville coming into the 2020 season. But things have changed, dramatically. The delayed start does add a unique element to this season and the chemistry and experience gap may have been diminished with this long delay. Or it may not have been. It’s impossible to know what 2020 is going to look like, but week one should go a long way to start gaining some clarity about where this team sits.
- Broadcast quality: It feels strange to have the broadcast as a thing to watch for after a year under our belt. But if there is one thing we have all realized in this crowdless soccer reality, it is that not all broadcasts are created equal. I am fully on team #NoFakeCrowdNoise and I cannot imagine they will be doing that for this level of soccer. But I want to see how the lack of a crowd impacts the feel of watching these matches.
- Match fitness: Watching teams and leagues across the world return to play has shown that sloppy play is almost to be expected coming out of this break. How quickly will the teams get up to speed? Where will the Triumph be in comparison to Fort Lauderdale in that respect?
Key Players for Fort Lauderdale CF:
- Ricky Lopez-Espin— Forward: Lopez-Espin is a name that should be plenty familiar to Triumph fans. He was the first player to ever score a goal at Legacy Early Field in the inaugural home opener while playing for Lansing Ignite. Lopez-Espin is a very good goal scorer and could keep the herons in the match if he is on his game. But, Ricky is also notoriously impulsive and his mouth has gotten him into trouble in the past. I expect the Triumph back line to be a real pain point for Ricky in this opening match.
- Eduardo Sosa — midfielder: Sosa will likely be the heart of the Fort Lauderdale midfield this season. The former Columbus Crew man comes in ready to make a big impact for this team. His speed and attacking ability could create chances for Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.
- Jason Kreiss — head coach: Perhaps the greatest signing the herons made in the offseason was that of their head coach, Jason Kreiss. Kreiss comes into League One with arguably the strongest resume of any coach in the leagues short history. As the former head coach of Real Salt Lake, New York City FC, and Orlando City SC, Kreiss has definitely earned his stripes. The biggest question coming into this post is how he will balance his leadership of this team with his other roles as the academy director for Inter Miami CF (a role that certainly works hand in hand with the head coach role) and as head coach of the United States U-23 men’s national team.
The CASHINHO “Take It To The Bank” Prediction:
The reality is that it is almost impossible to predict a match like this. Most of these players have not played a competitive match in 8–9 months. Fort Lauderdale is a brand new expansion side with almost no information out there about them. Will they approach this league like Orlando City B and Toronto FC II or like North Texas SC?
All things considered, I think this type of wild card match favors the team with history and chemistry at its core. I also think a dominating defense is going to prove to be kryptonite for the herons. Triumph win BIG here.
Greenville Triumph SC: 3— Fort Lauderdale CF: 0
The match will take place at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, FL at 8:00pm EST on Saturday July 18, 2020. The game will be available on ESPN+ in the US and YouTube internationally.