It has been almost two years since the lights of the NASL were shut off. While last year maintained a sense of rivalry with Jacksonville, Miami FC has had to shift to a new normal. Saturday’s NPSL final against the New York Cosmos brings back the familiar feelings that have long been missing for the Miami faithful.
The NPSL campaign is a gauntlet. Teams have to battle through a hectic regular season and an even more difficult post-season. Many envisioned this final happening last year as the NASL exiles took refuge in their new home. The Cosmos were bounced early in the playoffs and partly due to playing a heavy string of matches over a short period of time. The NPSL asks tough questions of management and roster structure. Questions that professional teams rarely have to deal with in North America.
The Cosmos host the NPSL Finals due to their undefeated season. Topping the leagues power rankings, finishing just ahead of Miami, insured home field advantage throughout the tournament. New York finished the regular season 13-1-0 and matching Miami’s goal differential of +43 over 14 matches. Half of the North Atlantic Conference averaged less than a point per match, however, amassing an average of more than 3 goals per game is a feat in any conference.
The Keys To A Miami Victory
The Orange and Blue dominated possession and got off to quick starts in the majority of their regular season fixtures. The playoffs have not worked out quite the same. Miami has failed to carry a lead into half time in their previous four matches. Giving up an early goal or going into the break could be disastrous.
Miami needs their front line to put in a full shift. Manager Paul Dalglish has found a bright spot in the attack through midfielder Ariel Martinez. Martinez, featured recently as a false nine, has scored seven goals in his past four matches. This has made up for the absence of Mohamed Thiaw who has struggled mightily during the post season. Having Thiaw up top with Martinez in the number ten role would provide for a potent attack if Thiaw can return to his scoring ways.
Lloyd Sam returns to the New York metro area for the first time since 2017. Sam who has been featured at right-back and provided Miami with an extra wrinkle in playmaking while being a stalwart defensively. The farther forward Sam pushes up the field the more opportunities that will open for Miguel Gonzalez.
As much as supporters of both of these clubs will discuss this as a “rematch”, much has changed. Miami’s Martinez and Dylan Mares are the only players to have been on the squad at the end of 2017. That said, the gravity of this game is still quite strong. With Miami departing for NISA and the Cosmos unlikely to return to professional soccer, this could be the last edition of this rivalry for a while. The Cosmos have often laughed at the expense of the Orange and Blue. Miami has a very good chance of having the last laugh.
New York Cosmos 2 – 3 Miami FC
Join us and The Miami FC organization for the 2019 NPSL Final watch party at Veza Sur in Wynwood. Click here to get details on the gathering!