The Magic City Clasico entered its fourth act Saturday night on the campus of Barry University. In the previous three contests, Miami United excelled at frustrating The Miami FC. The rough tackles, the willingness to go to ground, and the physicality all carried over from 2018. There was absolutely zero love lost between the two sides. Unfortunately for United, the 2019 version of Miami FC responds to adversity far better.
Looking at the two Miami teams you saw a real contrast. Miami United had come out of the gate well and had a great run in the cup which ended with a match up against an MLS side. The Miami FC 2 had labored early on but had grown as the season progressed. United’s season was over in the Sunshine Conference playoff semi. Dispatched comfortably by Armada by a 4-1 scoreline. It was to be the final many people expected at the start of the season in the Sunshine Conference. FC vs Armada.
After playing six matches in the 305 it was finally time to hit the road and see what the rest of the Sunshine Conference had to offer. First up was a drive north to Palm Beach Gardens to take on Palm Beach United. Obviously when you play in a national league away trips are hard because the USA is massive. So being able to drive for an hour or so to a road game was pretty fantastic. A stop was planned at Funky Buddha Brewing on the way to catch the Champions League final. Everything looked pretty perfect but as usual the day was ruined by the weather. An absolute monsoon blew through South Florida that day and while that made the drive up the I-95 a bit hairy. It also made the conditions less than ideal for soccer.
Miami-Dade County was well represented in the NPSL Conference XI on Friday, as three players from The Miami FC 2 and two players from Miami United FC were recognized by the league for their performance in the Sunshine Conference. In addition, Miami FC coach Paul Dalglish was named the coach of the year in the conference.
It’s crunch time in the NPSL Sunshine Conference as the seven teams in the division head into some vital games that will help shape the final season standings.
How do the playoffs work? What’s at stake? Well the top three get in. On July 11th the semi final will take place between 2nd and 3rd in the table at the ground of the higher placed team. The winner of that game goes on to the final game against 1st at their place on Saturday, July 14.
Win that game, you’re Sunshine Conference champ and move on to the South Region playoffs. This takes the form of a semi final and final as well. The Sunshine Conference champion goes up against the winner of the Southeast Conference playoff on July 17th. Which is a Tuesday. Winner of that game advances to the South Region playoff final versus whoever won the game between the Lone Star and Heartland Conference champs on July 21. Confused? Yeah. I was too. It’s all broken down here. http://www.npsl.com/playoffs
But let’s concentrate on the Sunshine Conference. It looks like this right now.
THE MIAMI FC 2
Miami FC 2 went three points clear at the top, with 21 points in total, after a narrow win in Naples in their last game. Incredibly, they are not even guaranteed a playoff spot as 4th place Naples United can finish on 22 points if they win their three remaining games. Miami FC 2 have a bye this weekend but will be guaranteed a playoff spot without kicking a ball if Miami United lose their last game away at Palm Beach United and Jacksonville Armada win on the road in Naples.
FC have two games remaining, both at home, against Naples United on July 3rd and Boca Raton on July 7th. One win guarantees a top two finish but they need to win both and hope the Armada drop points somewhere to end up in top spot. The team’s form looks good, they’ve won six of their last seven games with the only loss coming on the road to the Armada back on June 6th. FC should finish first or second, but must keep getting points on the board to keep the pressure on Jacksonville.
REMAINING GAMES: vs Naples United (July 3, 7pm), vs Boca Raton (July 7, 7pm)
Up the I-95 in the Bold City the Jacksonville Armada have been getting the job done too. They are three points behind FC with a game in hand but the ace up their sleeves is that if they finish level on points with Miami they are guaranteed to finish 1st as they hold the upper hand on the head-to-head between the two teams (One win, one draw). That’s the first tiebreaker. It can’t come down to goal difference.
The pressure’s on the Armada this weekend. They travel to Naples United on Saturday and the game is a must win if they want to keep their destiny in their own hands. Since beating Miami the Fleet’s form has been up and down. After that game they lost 4-2 in Palm Beach, tied themselves up in Hialeah 1-1 against United, blitzed Boca 7-0 and drew 0-0 with United at home. In their last game they got their noses by Palm Beach 3-2 at home.
Their other two games are away at Storm FC on July 4th and at home to Naples on Saturday 7th. All these games are winnable for Jacksonville, but they must stay perfect to give themselves the best possible chance of finishing first.
REMAINING GAMES: @ Naples United (June 30, 5:00pm), @ Storm FC (July 4, 2:30PM), vs Naples United (July 7, 7:30pm)
Miami United have suffered a severe case of cup hangover and their league campaign has gone totally off the rails. They’ve simply drawn too many games and are out of real contention for 1st place. This weekend is their final game and it’s a good job they are cup specialists because this game is a cup final. They are up against Palm Beach United on the road. PBU have taken the most points off the top three and got a 2-1 win when they played United in Hialeah. There is no chance of Palm Beach rolling over for them as PBU must win this game to keep their own playoff hopes alive.
Since trashing Storm FC 9-0 on May 12 the goals have dried up for United. Indeed if you remove Storm from the equation they haven’t managed more than one goal a game since May 5th. Palm Beach however are good going forward. They’ve scored more goals than the Armada in the same number of games. It’s a must win match up for both teams and should be a cracker. You’d bet on United coming 3rd in the table, but a loss on Saturday would change that thinking.
REMAINING GAMES: @ Palm Beach United (June 30, 7pm)
Although they are 4th and 5th, both Naples United and Palm Beach United will have an eye on beating Miami United to 3rd spot. Both teams have motivation to rip up scripts on Saturday. Naples United need to beat Jacksonville to give themselves a slim hope at 3rd. If they lose, they’re done.
They have a big hand in how the top of the table plays out as their last three games are all against Jacksonville and Miami. Even if three wins is a pretty impossible task they’ll certainly be down to grinding out a point or two to try to finish above PBU if Palm Beach falter.
Palm Beach United cannot be discounted and have a much better shot at 3rd than Naples. If they manage a win against Miami United their last two games are winnable road trips, Boca and then Storm FC. Three wins in their last three games would put them on 21 points and get them in the playoffs, unless Naples somehow also manage three wins. They do have half a chance.
NAPLES UNITED FORM: WDWWL
REMAINING GAMES: vs Jax Armada (June 30, 5pm), @ Miami FC 2 (July 3, 7PM), @ Jax Armada (July 7, 7:30PM)
PALM BEACH UNITED FORM: LLWWL
REMAINING GAMES: vs Miami United (June 30, 7pm), @ Boca Raton (July 3, 7PM), @ Storm FC (July 7, 6pm)
Tonight’s NPSL Sunshine Conference match-up shouldn’t make any supporter of Miami FC nervous. The truth is Storm FC have one point in seven games and have given up 26 more goals than they have scored (1). Realistically there is little to worry about during tonight’s contest as it’s very unlikely that Miami FC will drop points of any kind to Storm. However, this match is incredibly important when it comes to Miami’s standing in the conference table when it comes down to goal differential.
The Miami FC 2 got back on track Wednesday night, defeating Palm Beach United 4-1 at Bobcat Field at St. Thomas University.
Palm Beach United isn’t generally considered in the top echelon of the National Premier Soccer League’s Sunshine Conference. However, they’ve managed two wins against teams who are in that top tier (Miami United and Jacksonville Armada). For the second time this season, through, Miami FC 2 was able to handle the matchup with ease.
While many eyes will be focused on Miami United in Hialeah, a match important to South Florida soccer watchers will be taking place upstate, as The Miami FC 2 travels to Jacksonville to take on the Armada.
Boca Raton FC will begin its NPSL Sunshine Conference season hosting Miami United FC in Delray Beach on Saturday at 6PM. These opponents are no stranger to each other, playing twice last year in the Sunshine Conference with Boca losing both games one to zero. United, who also placed a squad in the APSL last year, faced Boca twice with Boca winning both those games 2-1. The ties between the club go deep as Boca and United have also previously faced off in last years first round of the US Open Cup with United advancing to the second round.