Miami put their best foot forward Tuesday night and the fireworks came early for the Miami faithful. Despite allowing a first-half goal, Naples did their best to keep themselves on pace with Jacksonville. At the end, Miami’s fitness and professional experience was just too much for the boys from the west coast to handle on the overcast and humid night.
Paul Dalglish’s lineup was a tad bit of a head-scratcher. With Kris Tyrpak recovering from injury, the manager elected to go heavy in the midfield and elected to have Jaime Chavez start the game from the bench. Perhaps seeing something of note from the previous contest where Naples frustrated the Blues time and time again, Dalglish went with five natural midfielders and winger Don Smart. Smart was deployed at the right back position and placed Dylan Mares as the striker alongside Ariel Martinez.
From the first whistle it was all Miami as the Blues looked to push the pace of play and get an early tally. Earning a corner in the second minute, Miami constantly put the Naples backline under pressure which they answered effectively time and time again. In the 8th minute, Miami will get their first crack at goal, but the effort sailed high and out for a goal kick. Miami would constantly get the better of Naples but be disciplined by the referee in the 25th minute. Jonny Steele, starting his first match in a long time, got a loose ball in the midfield first but got a piece of the Naples player as well and found himself in the referee’s book.
For a moment it looked like things would unravel in the 32nd minute. Ariel Martinez was playing a ball in the midfield and took a couple cheap shots from the Naples defender. After getting shoved out of play Martinez retaliated and both players got into an altercation. Smartly Martinez’ teammates stepped in and restrained before the action could go any further with both the #10 and Naples’ Walter getting yellow cards.
After two massive saves from the Naples goal keeper on point blank efforts, Dario Suarez would be the man to break the gridlock. After regaining possession, Michaud would find Mares in the center circle. Wasting no time, Suarez pounced on a sleeping back line and Mares played a perfect through ball allowing Suarez to beat the Naples keeper near side.
The second half would see Naples arguably get the better of Miami. With their Sunshine Conference playoff lives on the line, Naples needed a result and their play picked up. Getting numbers forward and ceasing having five defenders at the back, Naples put Miami in tricky situations in multiple situations. In the 57th minute, the Blues almost gifted Naples a goal as Jonny Steele turned into a pressing forward forcing Daniel Vega to make a miraculous save to keep the clean sheet.
Dalglish would make his first set of changes that would see the entire bench get minutes in the contest. The deployment shifted a bit as Jaime Chavez would come into the match in the 62nd minute ending Dylan Mares’ night short. In addition, Don Smart earned a rest along side Jonny Steele in exchange for Sean McFarlane and Tomas Greco.
Chavez would attempt to make his mark on the game early in his appearance as he finished a 69th minute cross from McFarlane with a beautiful volley that screamed into the back of the net. Unfortunately for Chavez, the assistant referee claimed the ball went out for a goal kick much to the chagrin of the substitutes. After a few subs in the 72nd minute, MFC2 would get yet another fantastic chance as a counter broke their way in a 3-on-1 opportunity moments later. Greco would complete a fantastic tackle and spring Miami on the counter in the attacking zone. His pass to the right was just out of Shawn Chin’s range forcing Miami to slow down and lose a fantastic opportunity for their second.
The second goal of the night would come in the 92nd minute of the match, as Jaime Chavez found himself on a one-on-one with the Naples keeper. After a long ball by newcomer Brian James was played poorly by the last Naples defender, Chavez picked it off his foot cleanly and began his dance with the Naples keeper. After dipping his shoulder and faking his direction to the right, his step over created enough space to beat the keeper and blast the second goal into the back of the net.
The Road Ahead:
Miami find themselves just one point away from winning the NPSL Sunshine Conference and having home field advantage in the Conference final. Technically, if the Jacksonville Armada drop a result of any kind to Storm FC on the 4th of July, Miami would have nothing to play for in the final fixture. A Storm FC result would keep Naples United alive in the playoff race for the third spot with a winner-take-all showdown with Jacksonville on Saturday.