It was a lovely spring evening at St. Thomas University and the stage was set for a good battle between The Miami FC 2 and FC Kendall, two sides tuning up for some important upcoming games. Indeed this could have been a dress rehearsal for a possible rematch in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. We now know if The Miami FC 2 can negotiate a tricky tie with FC Miami City then the squad will probably line up against FC Kendall or Red Force in the first round.
But back to the game. While conditions were perfect for soccer, it took a little while for the game to get going. FC Kendall came out of their corner swinging, closing down their hosts when they were in possession and breaking quickly when then won the ball. With Miami playing a high defensive line, there was plenty of space behind the fullbacks for FC Kendall to get stuck into. They had a couple of moments early on when just an extra pass or two might have created serious problems for Miami. While there may have been a gap in quality on paper, FC Kendall were more then making up for it with a good game plan and strong team spirit.
By contrast Miami seemed to still be in the locker room early on. The passing was overall lethargic and sloppy. Perhaps it was understandable as the two games before this had been one-way traffic and it took a little while to adapt to better organized opposition who were giving them much less time on the ball. Once again Don Smart was a standout, the electric Jamaican carving out a couple of half chances for his teammates early on once Miami settled into the game.
Although it was end-to-end, there was a lack of quality soccer until the twenty-minute mark when Tomas Greco combined with Smart and lashed a vicious strike against the crossbar. It was a rare lapse from FC Kendall and a huge let off for them. Instead of galvanizing the home team, the sound of ball on metal seemed to kick FC Kendall up a gear. There was a really good, physical spell which, unfortunately, culminated in a cowardly challenge by an FC Kendall player on Don Smart. It was an ugly moment, the kind of rash challenge that can end a player’s season, and in any other game would probably have been a straight red. Instead, the yellow card came out. FC Kendall got their just desserts when Dylan Mares, who was furious at the treatment of his teammate, fired Miami FC 2 into the lead with a well-taken goal.
Yet it was the visitors who reacted better. Immediately they showed more initiative and were able to pin Miami FC 2 back into their own half. A few minutes later they were rewarded with a equalizer. Good work down the left culminated in some calamitous Miami defending and chaos in the home box. A deserved penalty was awarded when one of the visitors was cleaned out in the area. Jona Andrade stepped up for the spot kick and placed a perfect penalty to the right of Mario Daniel Vega, the keeper completely rooted to his spot. It was no more than FC Kendall deserved, it was a great time for them to score and the first half ended 1-1.
The second half was largely forgettable. Kendall was doing a great job of protecting its position and it took the introduction of Jeff Michaud by Miami FC 2 to change the game. With the game wearing on, the superior fitness of the professional side was apparent and Michaud was determined to take the game by the scruff of the neck. A lovely bit of play on the edge of the area opened up for Michaud and he placed a wonderful shot out of the reach of the Kendall keeper. It was a rare moment of quality in the second 45 and ultimately it would be good enough to win the game. This time Miami were in no mood to gift their opponents a way back, head coach Paul Dalglish made wholesale changes for the last 15 and FC Kendall had no real quality available on the bench to force an equalizer. The match petered out to a final score of 2-1.
Although the records will show a Miami FC win, FC Kendall would by far have been the happier of the two sides. For long periods of the game they matched their opponents and the performance will give them a lift heading into their Open Cup campaign. They certainly have the potential to cause teams problems. As one of the elite local teams, FC Kendall may have one eye on moving to the NPSL themselves sometime soon and on this evidence they would certainly be good enough to make that step up.
For Miami FC 2 it would have been a bit of a wake up call. Coach Dalglish marched straight off the pitch to the locker room for the postmortem, clearly not happy with the way his team played. The players have just one more preseason game to convince the boss they are worth a place in the starting XI. SIMA Aguilas provide the opposition 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 8 at Bobcat Field at St. Thomas University.