Miami FC Best Cleveland 4-1; Face Cosmos In Finals

Miguel Gonzalez beats Cleveland to give Miami FC their third goal of the match. Photo By: Orovio Photography

Saturday night at FIU Soccer Stadium was like a page out of an old script. Miami FC have had their fair share of run-ins with mother nature. Saturday would be no different as the skies opened with lightning bolts on campus an hour before kickoff. By the time the weather cleared, it was thirty minutes past kickoff. It would be another forty-five minutes before the teams could commence the NPSL Semi-Final. Cleveland were without the services of their best three attackers, which we highlighted in the preview article. Vinny Bell and Antonio Manfut were nursing injuries, and Tom Beck was serving a suspension. The starting line-up was raw and without a proven goal scorer up front. It showed early on as Cleveland would spend most of the first fifteen minutes in their defensive half.

Miami FC were ruthless sending wave after wave of attacks. In the 10th minute, Tomas Granitto blasted one from distance forcing the Cleveland keeper to make a save that was cleared as Miguel Gonzalez waited to pounce. Gonzalez would get his first chance on target a minute later which was saved as well.

Cleveland maintained an excellent shape that forced Miami to the flanks. Miami’s attempts to come through the middle of the pitch were immediately met by multiple Cleveland defenders. The pressure was far too much to allow play to build on the ground. CSC would go in to the locker room with their heads held high as they not only didn’t give up an early goal, but held Miami FC scoreless through the opening half.

Second Half

The Orange and Blue came out of the half surging. With no changes made to the starting lineup, the attack ramped up through the middle of the field. CSC were executing the “bend, don’t break” philosophy perfectly while conceding three consecutive corners in the first ten minutes. Ariel Martinez would begin to leave his mark on the game, this time from the corner flag.

In the 53rd minute, Martinez would whip an inswinger towards the far post that was met by a glancing header from Callum Chapman-Page. Chapman-Page scored in his first goal of the post-season and is easily the front-runner in the “newcomer of the year” award for MFC. The game was begging for a goal prior to the finish, and once Miami found their first the floodgates would open.

Two minutes later, Miami would charge down the right side of the pitch led by Miguel Gonzalez. Gonzalez would work his way back toward the top of the area before finding Martinez. Martinez would blast a shot low that took a fortunate deflection and would up in the back of the net. The tally would extend Martinez’ goal streak to four straight games.

The next twenty-five minutes would see both teams get a few chances as Cleveland began to push numbers forward. Miami would continue to pad the lead by keeping the attack on the right hand side of the pitch. Gonzalez would get released forward and make a run into the penalty area. Gonzalez strike beat CSC short-side, on a bad angle, and gave Miami a three goal lead.

The three goal lead was useful for MFC as Cleveland would get one back in the 83rd minute. A knuckled effort from distance made for a difficult save from what seemed like a routine one. Mark Pais would be unable to catch the shot from Michael Derezic and it brought CSC back to life.

The Orange and Blue were up for the challenge in the remaining seven minutes plus stoppage. Harrison Heath, who came on for Lance Rozeboom after the goal for Cleveland, would ease the minds of the Miami faithful. In the 90th minute, Heath’s shot would strike the roof of the net after being played in by a combination of passes from Shawn Chin and Gonzalez.

The Road Ahead For Miami

Miami FC earned a spot in the NPSL Championship match against old rivals the New York Cosmos. The Cosmos will host the final, thanks to their undefeated season in the North Atlantic Conference. Miami would come in second on the power rankings, due to their loss against Miami United in the second match of the season. While some are viewing this as a re-match of the 2017 NASL semi-final, very few players remain for each side. Miami’s Dylan Mares and Ariel Martinez are the only active players remaining from 2017. The New York Cosmos won’t have many carryovers from 2017, but do have former Miami FC forwards Aaron Dennis and Aly Hassan on their roster.

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