When a club goes on a run that includes outscoring their opponents by 32 goals, it’s inevitable that there is a let down coming. Very rarely are dominant performances like the ones displayed by MFC sustained in the long haul. In what may have been the first blimp on the radar since the loss to the Florida Soccer Soldiers, Miami managed to only score one goal by half time. It was the next 45 minutes that showed all the signs of a team ready for a lengthy playoff run.
It was an ugly day in paradise in the Magic City on Saturday. Torrential rainfall impacted the majority of the city leaving many roadways flooded and parks inundated with water. Luckily for all parties involved, Buccaneer Field at Barry University held up quite well. The pitch showed no signs of being water-logged but the ball definitely seemed slower over the run of play. With the unideal conditions, Central Florida would have a fighting chance of clawing a result away from the sunshine conference juggernaut.
— The Miami FC (@TheMiamiFC) June 9, 2019
By the time kickoff rolled around the skies were blue and all signs of rain were in the horizon. Central Florida attempted to absorb some pressure and chose against employing a high press in the opening moments. Unfortunately that tactic would backfire as Miami FC enjoyed sustained possession around the CFSC penalty area. In the 10th minute, Dario Suarez would find a ball at his feet right at the penalty spot. Instead of forcing a shot on target, he laid it off for a barreling Hector Morales who beat the keeper to the low corner giving Miami the first goal of the night.
Central Florida would quickly overhaul their tactics and begin employing a high press on defense in hopes of causing a mistake from the Miami back four. With the ground soaked, there were numerous occasions where CFSC nearly capitalized on causing an error. In addition to the defensive tactic change, the Panthers abandoned channeling passes through the middle and opted for long diagonal balls hoping to spring loose one their strikers.
The Panthers would manage to contain Miami despite their efforts to counter attack down the flanks using Marco Franco and Othello Bah. In the 32nd minute, Ariel Martinez would get taken down just a few steps outside of the 18-yard box. The referee would disagree and show Martinez a yellow card for simulation. Central Florida looked like the better team for the remainder of the second half with solid goalkeeping play and sustained pressure while amassing five corner kicks.
Half time would have Miami FC manager, Paul Dalglish, make three changes including bringing on captain Dylan Mares, Brian James, and the red-hot Miguel Gonzalez. Gonzalez had tallied ten goals over the past 4 matches and nearly found himself on the score sheet again just minutes after half time. Both teams would enjoy a decent amount of possession over the first fifteen minutes of the second half with Miami FC striking the crossbar off a set piece and Central Florida missing an equalizer with a fantastic bended effort.
The floodgates would begin to fail for Central Florida when Mohamed Thiaw was taken down just a step outside of the penalty area in the 66th minute. Dylan Mares and Brian James would line up over the ball, but the captain would pull rank and go bar-down. Thiaw would make sure there were no questions regarding the free kick and head the ball into the back of the net to secure Miami’s second goal of the night.
— Omar Moubayed (@Moubayed11) June 10, 2019
Just three minutes later, Gonzalez would get redemption on his earlier miss. Brenton Griffiths would be unchallenged bringing the ball into the attacking area before finding Dylan Mares. Mares would make a quick one-touch pass to Thiaw who reciprocated to a streaking Gonzalez. Gonzalez would be in alone on the keeper and go five-hole earning his 11th goal in the past 5 NPSL matches.
In the 85th minute, a CFSC counter attack would fizzle out near the center circle. Bah would play a header to Mares, who executed an excellent give and go with Thiaw in tight quarters. Mares would play a through ball to Brian James and then break wide and be on the receiving end of a ground cross that would be ruled a goal by the assistant referee with the referee’s field of view blocked from determining if the ball had crossed the line.
Finally in the 91st minute, the Orange and Blue would collect a final goal, this time a header from Mohamed Thiaw that connected with Dylan Mares’ free kick from the left flank. Mares would amass two assists and a goal in just 45 minutes of action, being awarded the man of the match for his efforts.
The Road Ahead
With all of this unfolding, there was more drama happening less than five miles away at North Miami Athletic Field. Naples United was leading Miami United in a fixture that had significant implications on the table. Naples would prevail over Miami United, setting up two massive matches between Miami FC and Naples over the next two weeks. Almost as important, the fourth and final playoff spot may come down to the final week between the Jacksonville Armada’s U-23 and Central Florida SC.