We have the opponent, and we have the date. As we mentioned earlier, this 2018 NPSL season has been eerily similar to a roller coaster ride. You have the anxiety before you take your seat, the high’s, the low’s, the fear, the excitement. Yet, at the end of the ride you pull off your safety constraints and you get off knowing you always would. Despite everything that has happened, the draws, the losses, and the unconvincing victories, it’s Miami FC versus Jacksonville for the title. It’s what was always supposed to be.
Miami FC 2 come into the match having a week’s worth of rest. The nagging injuries that have kept winger Kris Tyrpak and fullback Shaddi Atassi out have had ample time to be worked on. Paul Dalglish has had a full week to work on a game plan in the absence of Jaime Chavez, serving a red card suspension. With Miami’s most potent striker in the stands for Saturday’s clash, the safety net is gone and the goals will have to come from a collective effort.
Despite dropping multiple contests in the Sunshine Conference, Jacksonville come into the match having won their last three contests. Their streak includes a route against Miami United on Wednesday in order to advance to the title game by a score of 4-1. Despite United’s best efforts to keep it close, Jacksonville put on the after-burners at the beginning of the second half. In their previous five contests, the Armada have scored 13 times. In their only two losses this season, both came against teams who were willing to sit back and absorb pressure until they could release a counter (PBU, NUFC).
Keys to a Miami FC 2 Victory:
2018 hasn’t been a good year against the Armada. In 2017 in NASL play, Miami torched Jacksonville in five contests not allowing a single goal. 2018 has seen a draw in the early stages of the campaign and a 1-0 win for Jacksonville on their home grounds. Composure will be the overall key to getting past the other NASL-exile. Miami cannot afford stupid penalties or to play any parts of this game a man down.
Dalglish has certainly had time to devise a strategy to fill the void that will be left by Chavez’ suspension. With Miami’s leading goal scorer and aerial threat out of for the contest, we could see a shift from the standard 4-3-3 that is usually deployed to a more holding 4-3-3. With Don Smart and Kris Tyrpak manning the wings effectively all season, Dario Suarez will likely be the figure playing in a central striker role. The attacking midfielder has six goals in NPSL play this season with Miami and will likely try to divert enough attention away from the wingers in the middle of the area.
Expect heavy activation from the wings through out the match as their service will be crucial to finding the likes of Suarez, Ariel Martinez, and Dylan Mares. It will be interesting to see who is the deployed right back of choice as Coy Craft has been getting more playing time as of late. Craft and his cross field partner Tyler Polak will have to be responsible defensively and be the focal points in springing the wingers.
Jacksonville hadn’t beaten Miami United until their mid-week playoff contest to enter the title game. Similarly, Miami FC hasn’t beaten Jacksonville in their 2018 campaign. While there is no denying that the absence of Jaime Chavez swings this tilt in favor of the Armada, I expect the midfield to control the game and hinder the Armada’s ability to go forward. There is no doubt that this game will be closely contested, yet it may just come down to which team can compose themselves best. One mistake, one reckless challenge, one argument with the referee is all it will take to ruin someone’s chances.
Miami FC 2 – 1 Jacksonville Armada
Match is scheduled for a 7PM kickoff from St. Thomas University. Tickets are still available for the NPSL Sunshine Conference Title match! Click on this link to your tickets today!