Whether you call a rivalry match a derby or a clasico, there is usually some sort of animosity between the two clubs. Sunday night in Hialeah, there was no hatred between Miami United and Miami FC 2. How could there be? The two have never squared off in a meaningful match, the teams are relatively unknown to each other, and the supporters groups actually get along well. The match may have laid the foundation for the idea of no love lost between the two organizations.
The new look MFC2 named a rather interesting starting XI. For supporters of the Blues, only four faces from last season’s amazing NASL campaign started the match. Perhaps there was some comfort in seeing that the defense was still together. Yet, it was all United early on.
United came out of the gate firing as they consistently found a way through the Blues midfield. After earning one of United’s nine first-half corners, Elusma Pierre connected on a corner kick but sailed it just over the crossbar. United would consistently pressure MFC2’s midfield rendering them unable to connect down the field.
It would take until the 22nd minute for MFC2 to enter the United technical area. Dylan Mares finally sprung Don Smart loose, however his final touch would fail him, and the ball would go out of play. Not long after, Mares would find a crease through the midfield and play Coy Craft through, but the assistant referee had other ideas and raised the flag for offsides.
Daniel Vega would be tested early and often throughout the match as 2017 NASL Golden Glove winner would get a finger tip on a header by Pierre to keep the match scoreless in the 30th minute. The first half would end with another flurry of United attacks and missed opportunities for MFC2.
Mother nature looked to play a factor as the weather intensified from some light rain and wind to a full-on downpour at the half. The Blues looked to press the matter early on as Coy Craft found some space down the right-hand. After a failed cut to the middle of the field resulted in a turnover, United sprung on the counter. Gabrielle Privitera charged up the left hand side with a 50-yard run that led to a bended right-footed effort from United’s left wing. Vega found himself up to the task with a diving save but a charging Victor Pelae would pick up the rebound and fire it home for the first goal of the match in the 46th minute.
MFC2 played the aggressor throughout the second half bringing in Jaime Chavez and Stefano Fanfoni to bolster the attack in the 64th minute. Almost instantly Chavez would test United’s resolve, as a header forced Bryan Martin to make a fantastic save. MFC2 would find themselves with their best chance of the match in the 72nd minute as Fanfoni would be gifted an empty net after a mistouch by the United defense. Fanfoni would rush his volley and sky it over the crossbar keeping MFC2 down by one.
New Miami FC 2 manager, Paul Dalglish, would make two additional substitutions in the following minutes looking to take something away from this game. Vincenzo Rennella and Sean McFarlane would enter the match for Juan and Manny Gonzalez. It was all hands-on deck for the next 12 minutes as MFC2 pushed body forwards. In the 83rd minute, Mason Trafford found himself with the ball at his feet and a clear look at goal but ripped his shot wide from distance.
Craziness would begin to ensure in the 88th minute. Visibly bothered Tyler Ruthven would be replaced by Lionel Brown. “Wait, Lionel Brown? You mean the goalkeeper? Lionel Brown the goalie!?” Yes, Lionel Brown the goalkeeper would enter the game with a kit made from pure ingenuity.
MFC2 would continue pressing until earning a throw-in from the United zone in the dying seconds. The Blues would work the ball around the defensive corps before finding Sean McFarlane. McFarlane would send in a deadly accurate ball from 40 yards out, finding an unmarked Chavez on the edge of the 6 yard box. Chavez would place his header low and across Martin finding the side netting stealing a point for MFC2 in the last seconds of the match.
Despite constant lightning overhead in the second half, the referee found this the moment where play could not continue, and the match would be called with just a few seconds left before completing the full 90. Despite a sloppy match for Miami FC 2, stealing a point at the death surely felt like a win on the bus ride home. For Miami United, validation that they could stay toe to toe against a team full of experienced veterans, despite giving away a result in the last seconds could go a long way to determining the Sunshine Conference champions. A victory for either club in part two of the Clasico could be the difference in the final table. Don’t miss next week’s match at St. Thomas University on Saturday at 7PM.