In the words of the great musician Billy Joel, “Oh what a night”. The Miami FC 2 clinched their ticket to the national tournament and took care of business at the BOB. To make things even sweeter, Miami will get to play another match in front of the FC2 faithful. Despite some mid-week heroics, Little Rock was just no match for this professional outfit.
Early on you could tell that Miami was determined to exploit their advantage out on the flanks. From the opening moments of the game the fullbacks were pushing past and playing off Ariel Martinez and Dylan Mares. Martinez’ moment almost came early on as two beautiful passes to Suarez were sniffed out by the Rangers keeper Walid Essafi. Essafi would make a few more saves reminiscent to his match against Laredo. Unfortunately for Little Rock, his clean sheet would be broken in the 20th minute as Sean McFarlane whipped in an excellent cross from the right flank to Jaime Chavez. Chavez made no mistake and headed it home for the first goal of the night.
The second goal almost came moments later as Kris Tyrpak played a cheeky back-heel to Mares who was denied at point-blank range. It would be all Miami as Little Rock would struggle to exit their own end. Each time the Rangers looked to break, a poor pass would find a Miami player waiting to pounce. In the 41st minute, Dylan Mares would get redemption. Dario Suarez would cut through the heart of the Little Rock defense and find Mares who chipped Essafi to bring Miami’s lead to two.
Coming out of the half, Paul Dalglish began to make changes with the Blues holding a commanding position in the match. Jaime Chavez exited for Coy Craft and the attack didn’t seem to miss a beat. Miami continued to dominate possession and unleash a barrage of shots against Essafi, all of which were saved. In the 64th minute, Dalglish would make a triple substitution allowing Tyler Ruthven, Jeff Michaud, and Tomas Greco to enter the match for Tyrpak, Martinez, and Mason Trafford.
Little Rock’s best effort would come in the 71st minute as a link up of play would find them with a rare spell of possession near Miami’s goal. A lateral ball was played towards a Rangers forward but his curling effort was wide of the target. In the 72nd minute, Little Rock would finally register a shot on target that was corralled comfortably by the captain Mario Daniel Vega. In the 84th minute, Tomas Greco played an excellent ball forward for Suarez in the danger area. The former Ann Arbor Mighty Oak buried his effort past Essafi and brought Miami’s lead to three. Little Rock tried valiantly to push the action in the final ten minutes of the match, but Miami’s fitness proved too much to handle.
The ceremony proved to be delightful for players, staff, and supporters. Almost everyone at the field including some spectators had a chance to interact with the region trophy and take photos with their favorite players. Each member of the Miami FC was awarded with a NPSL South Region Champions medal. We caught up with man of the match Dylan Mares and manager Paul Dalglish to get their thoughts after being crowned the 2018 NPSL South Region Champs. See what they had to say below.
The Rest Of The Final Four
It was a crazy night in the NPSL as all of the Region Finals were taking place throughout the night. The New York Cosmos found themselves bounced from the tournament by FC Motown. Out west, FCM Portland outlasted Orange County FC in a goal fest, 6-4, earning the fourth seed in the National bracket and the right to travel to New Jersey to take on Motown. In another upset, Duluth FC conceded a goal late yet managed to hold during extra time to force penalties. Duluth would sneak past AFC Ann Arbor 4-3. Duluth went 120 minutes two straight matches and now have earned the right to travel to Miami for their shot at a spot at the National Finals.
Tickets for the 2018 NPSL National Semi-Final go on sale tomorrow. Visit MiamiFC.com to get your tickets!