It’s the evening of 5th of November 2017. I’m bent double with my head in my hands as the sounds of boisterous celebration by the contingent from the New York Cosmos in Riccardo Silva Stadium confirm that The Miami FC’s 2017 NASL season is over. Mason Trafford has just planted his shootout effort onto the woodwork. For the first time in my life I couldn’t watch a penalty. It meant too much. Of all the players I didn’t want to miss, it was Mason. He’d not put a foot wrong all year, the likable boy from Boynton Beach had become a fan favorite for his consistent performances in defense. Soccer is a sport that writes cruel scripts.
The nation’s oldest soccer tournament has long been a historic tradition that has allowed some of the country’s smallest soccer clubs to square off against the heavyweights. The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup began in 1914, long before the official pyramid was even thought of. The inclusivity of the tournament allowed many proverbial “David v Goliath” matches to take place. With the expansion of the professional pyramid over the years, fewer amateur and semi-pro clubs have had the ability to compete. The 106th edition may be one of the worst for the non-professional sides.
Tropical Park was the scene for another exciting U.S. Open Cup qualifier with two local heavyweights going toe-to-toe for a chance to progress one step closer to the tournament proper. Florida Soccer Soldiers edged out 10-man Red Force FC 1-0 to reach the next round.
With the sad demise of FC Kendall it looks like Red Force have found a new rivalry already. These two teams have been playing some of the best local elite amateur soccer over the past year and a fair crowd of about 125 stayed out late on a Sunday evening to watch a compelling encounter.
With a steady wind whipping in from the north Red Force looked the more composed of the two sides early on. Florida Soccer Soldiers had quite a high defensive line and were almost undone by the diagonal ball over the top a couple of times. Danger man Stiven Salinas getting behind his marker and trying to create chances for his team mates. He and David Holguin combined to set up a chance for the latter but the big Colombian couldn’t get his effort on target.
What the Soccer Soldiers might lack in experience they made up for with youthful enthusiasm. Two players especially catching the eye were Manuel Coll and Valentin Sabella. Sabella, a 19 year old Argentinean, is as fast as lightning and good with the ball at his feet very reminiscent of his countrymen Messi, Maradona or Tevez. Short, quick and tricky. His powerful runs down the left flank were a constant threat to Red Force. Manuel Coll got in on the action with Soccer Soldiers’s best chance in the first 45. Sending an accurate shot on target from outside the box that was well-covered by Red Force keeper Anton Widen. Nil-nil at half time.
Although this match was played in the right spirit, there were flashpoints as the game wore on. A yellow card apiece for the two teams in the first 45 and five more in the second. There was a competitive physical element to the game and it boiled over on the hour when Fabio Fernandes was shown a straight red for a high elbow in a challenge with an opponent. The decision was controversial. It was certainly a foul and a card but perhaps a yellow would have sufficed in the context of the game.
The game-breaking goal
Down to ten men, it got worse for Red Force when the Soccer Soldiers finally made the difference count. With the defense stretched Manuel Coll found livewire Sabella in the box and he made no mistake from close range. It was a fine goal to cap off Sabella’s man of the match performance. It was almost 2-0 not long after that. Julian Hoyos Cadavid with an effort that Widen was equal to.
Into time added on, which there was a lot of because of a few injury breaks and the red card, and Red Force almost got back into it. First hitting the post with a looping effort and then a glorious change for midfielder Jesse Kehoe. Kehoe was through on a one-on-one with the keeeper but Estrada Soto was quick to react and snuff the chance out.
Time was up and the Soldiers march on to the third qualifying round. Red Force had won six Open Cup qualifying games in a row stretching back to September 23rd, 2017. That run came to an end. They’ll be looking for revenge next year when they head into the UPSL themselves.
Post match interview with man-of-the-match Valentin Sabella.
RED FORCE FC
Anton Widen (GK); Richard Perdomo, Lucas Compos Coro, Chris Munoz, Jesse Kehoe, Gilbert Ruiz, Steven Salinas, Fabio Fernandes, Cesar Murillo, David Holguin, Franco Alvaro. Subs; Daniel Gomez, Scott Gordon, Marcello Palucci, Omar Parsad
FLORIDA SOCCER SOLDIERS
Omar Estrada Soto (GK); Antonioni Gonzalez Gutierrez, Adolfo Suazo Williams, Valentin Sabella, Julian Hoyos Cadavid, Mario Ferro, Juan Carlos Paredes Rios, Manuel Coll, Andres Ruiz de Somocurcio, Carlos Meneses Freire, Cesar Moreno Ramos. Subs; Heatclif Castillo Delgado, Daniel Espantoso, Fernando Hernandez Aguirre
RED CARD ’60 Fabio Fernandes (Red Force)
GOAL ’73 Valentin Sabella, Assisted by Manuel Coll (Florida Soccer Soldiers)
MAN OF THE MATCH Valentin Sabella
Red Force advanced to the second qualifying round of the 2019 U.S. Open Cup thanks to a last-gasp matchwinner from Marcello Palucci, a strike that gave his side victory over FC Kendall 2-1 after a good 90 minutes of soccer.
The United Premier Soccer League tweeted out some expansion news early this morning. One of the most successful local amateur teams over the last 10 years, Red Force FC, will field a team in the UPSL. The team has previously competed in the American Premier Soccer League.
South Florida’s oldest running soccer rivalry will soon face off in US Soccer’s oldest tournament. The 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup draw for open division local qualifiers happened Wednesday morning and FC Kendall and Red Force FC were paired up for a Round 1 game in the Southeast Region on Sept. 23 at Tropical Park.
Red Force FC captured their first APSL Summer title Sunday after vanquishing South Florida FC 4-3 on penalties after an exciting, end-to-end battle that ended 2-2 after extra time. This was an encounter that had pretty much everything you could want in a game of soccer. Passion, aggression, good fútbol and an ultimate prize on the line.
After being postponed from its originally scheduled date at Broward College South Campus in Pembroke Pines on Sunday, the American Premier Soccer League semifinal match between FC Kendall and Red Force FC will be played at Tropical Park tonight at 8:30 p.m.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With three U.S. Open Cup matches to discuss locally, Matt and Drew are in absolute heaven. Join us, won’t you? Thanks to our sponsor, Groundhopper, for helping to make this Magic City Soccer episode happen!
After advancing from its “play-in” game Sunday night, The Miami FC 2 and Red Force FC face off in the official first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Miami FC 2 is the host, and have chosen to play at the FIU Soccer Stadium instead of its usual home ground this season, Bobcat Field at St. Thomas University. You can watch the live stream of the match below!