With the loss of forward Jaime Chávez to a red card and the late scratch of Don Smart, it appeared Saturday night’s challenge against Jacksonville Armada FC for the NPSL Sunshine Conference championship would be an uphill battle. But virtually from the moment of kickoff, The Miami FC 2 were in the driver’s seat and their play took them all the way to the title, thoroughly defeating the Armada 3-1.
Miami FC were the No. 1 seed after regular-season play, but Jacksonville Armada’s dominant performance against Miami United FC on Tuesday gave many pause.
“That’s why I came here,” head coach Paul Dalglish said after the match. “I took this job because I believe this organization wants to win every tournament that they play in. Thankfully, we’ve got the first one, but we’re not done yet.”
The main concern for Miami FC was the ability to possess the ball without Smart’s control on the field, and the ability to finish without Chávez on the field. Both proved to be non-issues, as Coy Craft up top and Sean McFarlane at right back handled the challenge more than capably.
Adapting to challenge
“Dario (Suarez) loves playing on the left-hand side. The way I look at the team, when I’m picking the team, is let’s try to get as many players in their natural positions as possible,” Dalglish said. “If you need to put one player, which is a square peg in a round hole, then it’s only one person that’s affected.
“I thought Coy was fantastic, considering it’s not his natural position. But I thought everybody else played in their natural positions and you saw the fluidity of the team.”
In the eighth minute, Kris Tyrpak was able to take advantage of some awkward play from Jacksonville goalkeeper and NPSL Conference XI selection Brian Holt. A ball into the box from Dylan Mares was headed by Tyrpak, and Holt’s punch away was a swing and miss. Tyrpak put just enough on it and game Miami a 1-0 lead.
Ciarán Kilduff dragged the Armada back into the match in the 28th minute when he stole possession from Mares, took one touch around goalkeeper Mario Daniel Vega, and finished with a low, strong shot. It was very much against the run of play, and had to worry the Miami FC faithful on hand.
That worry lasted about five minutes, when a Tyler Polak cross led to a strong finish from Suarez. All Suarez needed to do was run onto the ball, and that’s what he did to give The Miami FC 2 a lead it would never relinquish.
In the last ten minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half, it appeared Armada might have found their footing. Better stretches of possession and more shots on target than they had in the rest of the game combined.
That all came to a thumping end in the 53rd minute. Tyrpak played a brilliant through ball to Ariel Martinez, who was able to hold up play and allow Tyrpak to fly back into the box and finish the match off.
The Miami FC 2 will now get ready for Tuesday night at 7 p.m. when the Atlanta Silverbacks of the Southeast Conference, another former NASL side (the Silverbacks left the league after the 2015 season). The winner of that game will advance to the South Region final.