For The Miami FC faithful, this season has gone just about as well as you could’ve hoped. Sure, a longer U.S. Open Cup run would have been welcomed, but this post-season has been a delight for supporters. Coming off the hiatus of the NASL, Miami FC was left with no place to play. In a scramble the organization created Miami FC 2 and entered the NPSL’s Southeast Conference. That last minute addition is now one of the final four teams vying for the NPSL Title.
The professional talent has been the determining factor for getting out of the Southeast conference despite hiccups to Jacksonville and Miami United. The club always knew that this season would be a marathon and not a sprint and have played their best soccer as of late. With Dylan Mares being named to the National XI of the league, Miami’s midfield is as dynamic as they come. Add in a proven professional goal scorer in Jaime Chavez and a solid defense with keeper Mario Daniel Vega, this team was an odds-on favorite to win the national title.
As for Duluth, they’re on a tear of their own. Entering the match the club from the coastal town off Lake Superior have won four straight, two in penalty kicks. Duluth survived a 2-2 first round contest in the playoffs against Grand Rapids FC, in penalties 4-3. In the Northwest Region Semi’s last Saturday, a 115th minute penalty kick eliminated their Minnesota rivals, Minneapolis City. The next night, they played their third straight contest of extra time and bounced the top-seed, AFC Ann Arbor, in penalties.
Keys To A Miami Victory:
Duluth has managed to absolutely drag out games and congest opponents ability to work in the midfield. Luckily for Miami, the midfield has been bypassed often by the system set by manager Paul Dalglish. Those are words that one would never typically say, but it’s worked. In the previous contest, fullbacks Tyler Polak and Sean McFarlane were more advanced in the attacks than Dylan Mares and Ariel Martinez. With the wings operating the full length of the pitch, Duluth will have to support their defensive width to keep Miami at bay.
If the play continues to grow from the outside-in, Duluth’s midfield could have enough confusion to Miami’s benefit. Kris Tyrpak and Dario Suarez have been amazing on outside-in runs, but even more dangerous when being unleashed from the middle of the field. Miami has done a good job taking what the defense has given them, especially against teams like Atlanta and Little Rock.
Duluth beating Ann Arbor should not be taken lightly, even if Duluth parked the bus for some time. Miami has struggled to breakdown congestion in the midfield within their own conference. Duluth’s midfield will perhaps be their biggest test since Jacksonville. Jonny Steele will have to be nothing short of efficient in his distribution as Miami’s first choice holding midfielder. If he can link play between the centrebacks and the attack, Miami will likely cruise to a national final birth.
Duluth does not possess a roster that carries an obvious mismatch as the Atlanta Silverbacks had with Thierry Jules. Duluth has been able to finish counterattacks efficiently but has yet to play a defense as organized as this side. While it’s fair to say that the Blues defense has been shaky they’ve held their ground when up against the ropes. Both of these clubs are in the final four for a reason. Expecting a blow out of any kind would be foolish.
Miami FC2 2 – 1 Duluth FC