If The Miami FC 2 have learned anything from this season’s NPSL Sunshine Conference escapade it is that you cannot underestimate teams and take games for granted. After the hugely important scoreless draw between Jacksonville Armada and Miami United on Saturday, Miami knew a win in Naples would put them firmly in command in the NPSL Sunshine Conference. But this would be no straightforward evening’s work. Naples United are NPSL stalwarts and they always serve as competitive opponents. After an hour’s rain delay while the usual pre-match thunderstorm moved off into Alligator Alley, the stage was set for an important and intriguing encounter. The first between these two clubs.
Naples United set out to frustrate their opponents by playing five men along the edge of the box. Two center mids, two players out wide and a center forward. A pressing game on a hot and humid evening on the edge of the Everglades would have been suicide, Miami have picked off teams that chase the ball by a few goals this season. Add in a power-sapping turf field and it became clear this would be a game of attrition. For FC, it was business as usual. Two attacking fullbacks, three in the middle of the park, Chavez up top with Tyrpak and Suarez out wide.
The congestion in central areas was impossible for FC to pass their way through. Not even the quick feet of Dylan Mares could tiptoe through the traffic, he was forced back towards his defenders to try and make things happen. There was space on the flanks though and the most likely outlets were Tyrpak and Suarez who piled forward with support from the full backs behind them. Just after the half hour mark Suarez skinned a defender and powered into the box, he was hacked down for a clear penalty.
Chavez relieved Don Smart of his penalty taking duties, stepped up and sent a tame spot kick at a savable height to the keeper’s left. The keeper parried and the rebound went off towards the Gulf of Mexico. That miss almost turned into a nightmare just before the end of the half when Vega came charging out of his area and handled the ball. He can blame the awful field at Palmetto Ridge, where the soccer lines were marked out in black. It was often impossible to see where the box ended. Naples got the resultant free kick on target but FC were saved by the ref’s whistle for a push in the box.
Nil-nil at half time. The second 45 served up more of the same. Naples set up to frustrate tactically and hold up the flow with persistent fouling. They were happy to continue soaking up pressure and hit on the break. And it almost held until two of FC’s standout performers from this season combined with minutes left in the game. Don Smart sent a wonderful ball over for fan-favorite Mason Trafford to hammer in his first goal for the club.
Naples came straight back at them and in the dying moments had a dangerous 3v2 but could not find away past Vega, who produced another wonderful save to keep the three points safe. The game finished 1-0 and Miami FC 2 gave themselves an advantage over the Armada and Miami United heading into their final two home games.