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