Miami FC Clinch Home Field Advantage; Win 2-0 over Naples

It was a slow buildup but a euphoric ending for the Miami FC on Saturday night at Barry University. While the worry set in early for the Miami faithful, Naples could not contain the attack for long. For Naples, a result of any type could have earned the west coast club a playoff match at home. It was a couple of familiar faces whose performance would decide the contest in this top of the table fixture.

First Half

It was a slow start for both clubs in the early going with both teams willing to concede the midfield to their opposition. As Miami would attempt to enter the attacking end they’d be dispelled by Naples again and again. On the other end, Naples would find success after the first fifteen minutes by deploying counter attacks every time Miami attempted to cross the center line.

After earning multiple free kicks from about 25 yards out, Mark Pais would be called on to make a great save with the other attempts missing the goal by a mile. Paul Dalglish’s boys would attempt to break out through the flanks but could not connect on the long ball. Lloyd Sam and Mares would attempt to launch balls over the top to Dario Suarez and Miguel Gonzalez but each being judged offside on multiple occasions. 

Miami would fail to register a shot on target in the first 45 minutes. With both teams going into the break tied at zero, the halftime adjustments would be the key. Whichever side could find the first goal would likely walkaway with all three points. That first goal would be found just a few minutes after returning for the second half. 

Second Half

Miami captain Dylan Mares would be the one to break the deadlock. In the 48th minute, Mohamed Thiaw would bring down an aerial ball and find an unmarked Lloyd Sam with his back to the target. Sam would find Thiaw on a return pass as he floated outside of the penalty area on the right flank. Thiaw would cut back on a Naples defender and bend in a cross on his left foot that found a diving Mares for the first goal of the night.

Miami would dominate possession for the next period of time not allowing Naples a sight of goal in the early parts of the second half. In the 64th minute, it would be Thiaw again, that built the run up to the goal. In a pocket of space an excellent touch on a Shawn Chin pass allowed Thiaw to make a run to the edge of the penalty area. His centering pass was dummied by Mares and Miguel Gonzalez would take a touch before blasting in his 13th goal in the last seven matches. 

In the 84th minute it would be tense moments for the Orange and Blue as John Neeskens picked up the worse of a 50/50 ball. Sliding for a loose ball in his own zone, a Naples defender would bulldoze right through him and leave Neeskens writhing in pain on the ground. The referee of the match would book Mark Pais for criticism but not the Naples United player for his reckless challenge.

Neeskens would be unable to continue and with a short bench at Dalglish’s disposal backup keeper Lionel Brown would enter as a field player. Brown would deployed up top and almost find himself with an assist as he laid off a pass to Thiaw in the dying moments of the match whose effort was parried away.

The Road Ahead

The Miami FC will have a well earned week off as they will not have a match off next weekend. The NPSL regular season comes to an end on July 6th with a fixture against the Jacksonville Armada U-23 side. The Armada have all but clinched the final playoff spot, which if all things hold, will result in a rematch in the Sunshine Conference Semi-Final the following Tuesday or Wednesday. Miami United and Naples United have clinched playoff births already with the two clubs jockeying for position that will likely come down to the regular season finale in Naples on July 6th. 


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