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The Road to USL Academy Finals: Miami FC, AHFC Royals, San Antonio FC, East Atlanta Dutch Lions

By USL Academy Staff, 11/29/23, 4:00PM EST



Location: Miami, FL

Head Coach: Marcello Alves

Academy Director: Firmiano Ribeiro

Overall Record: 10-3-1

Goals Scored/Conceded: 33/14

Season Snapshot:

Miami FC has made significant progress in the 2023 season. After failing to qualify for the playoffs in 2022, the team went through a transition which included a new system and culture instilled by a new head coach, Marcello Alves, and several new players and staff. For the first time in history, Miami FC will be competing at USL Academy League Finals. Additionally, the club had its first graduate play for the first team in 2023.

Key Moment of Season:

After a challenging season in 2022, Miami FC began the season’s first four games with a 2-1-1 record. The team slowly began to adapt to a new coaching style and gained momentum that helped them qualify for Finals. Additionally, Lorenzo DiMercurio became the first Miami FC academy graduate made his debut for the first team.

Key Player: Felipe “Pipe” Rodriguez

Secret Weapon: Lucas Costa

AHFC Royals 

Location: Houston, TX

Head Coach: Steve Firth 

Overall Record: 7-2-3

Goals Scored/Conceded: 26/13

Season Snapshot:

The Royals find themselves returning to the USL Academy Finals for the second year in a row following a good season in the Lonestar Division.  The young team have shown the same form and fight the USL League Two team showed this past summer and have enjoyed competing in the USL Academy format.  The team is made up of creative, hardworking, like-minded players who never seem to be out of a game and enjoy having the chance to showcase their talents at this level.  

Key Moment of Season:

After a few early wins the Royals found themselves down at home to local rivals Houston FC with 10 mins to go.  As has become a theme this season, the belief and work ethic from the team meant they did not give up and a late substitution brought a debut brace from one of the club's 2008 players to get back in the game. 

Key Player: Karson Baquero

Secret Weapon: Brayden Lehner

San Antonio FC

Location: San Antonio, TX

Head Coach: Oscar Munoz

Academy Director: Juan Lamadrid

Overall Record: 10-1-1

Goals Scored/Conceded: 31/13

Season Snapshot:

This has been another successful season for the SAFC Academy with the quality of the young player pool providing opportunities for players. The club embraced the importance of the USL Academy league for the program to compete in meaningful matches for a vast pool of the top U15-U18 players throughout the year.

Key Moment of Season:

The introduction of two 2009 players and four 2008 players without losing the quality of the team's overall performance.

Key Player: Andy Bacho

Secret Weapon: Eduardo Fernandez

East Atlanta Dutch Lions FC

Location: East Atlanta, GA

Head Coach: Scott Redding

Academy Director: Sam Walker

Overall Record: 8-3-1

Goals Scored/Conceded: 27/18

Season Snapshot:

East Atlanta began the season well, losing only twice in eight games. However, heading into the final two weeks, the Academy still sat second in the division and would need three out of three wins to secure a place in the USL Academy Finals. This would prove a difficult task as all three matches were away and against formidable opponents, including the first place team in the division. Despite the challenges, the Lions were able to finish the season strong with nine out of nine points, securing their first ever trip to the USL Academy Finals.

Key Moment of Season:

The final two matches of the season would require the Academy to play both Chattanooga Red Wolves and South Georgia Tormenta in the same weekend. East Atlanta had never notched a win against Chattanooga, and Tormenta was in great form at the top of the table. East Atlanta was able to find their first ever win over Chattanooga with a 1-0 scoreline due to a goal in the final five minutes, setting up a South Central Division Championship match Sunday in South Georgia. It was a match worthy of the stage with 8 yellow cards, 1 red card, and five goals between the two teams. In the end, East Atlanta was able to pull out a 3-2 win and obtain its first-ever ticket to the USL Academy Finals.

Key Player: Jaylen Yearwood 

Secret Weapon: Will Stewart

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