The National Premier Soccer League season feels like a long grind despite having half the amount of games of a professional league. Miami FC are looking to add to their long list of accomplishments, by becoming the first team to repeat as NPSL National Champions. Standing in their way is a Cinderella story out of Cleveland, Ohio. The previous embodiment of a soccer club in Cleveland won the NPSL title in 2016. As if Miami and Cleveland have not been written enough sporting lore, the soccer pitch will now take it’s place in the spotlight.
While this match isn’t quite at the same level as the 1997 World Series or Lebron’s decision to “take his talents to South Beach”, there is quite a lot at stake. Cleveland is hoping the clock doesn’t strike midnight as the Midwest Conference Champions survived against Rochester and Detroit to make the SemNationali-Final. In the Midwest Semi-Final, Cleveland outlasted Rochester 6-4 in extra time. Two days later, Cleveland were the beneficiaries of atrocious penalty attempts by Detroit City earning their place against Miami.
Cleveland can score goals in bunches and have proved to be able to do so all season. Cleveland’s prolific attack of Antonio Manfut, Vinny Bell, and Tom Beck have accounted for 27 of their 40 goals. Bell, Man of the Match in the 2016 NPSL Championship game, will be the key player for Cleveland. His ability to create chances from tight quarters is very similar to Miami United’s Mattheus Gottler.
The Keys To A Miami FC Victory
Miami FC have likely gone over the tapes and have seen that Cleveland have little difficulty scoring. Even against the staunch Detroit City defense, CSC was able to bury two goals in the second half to equalize. Brenton Griffiths and Callum Chapman-Page will have to keep their eyes on Bell and Manfut the entire match. Lloyd Sam on the flanks with Othello Bah would allow for extra support on Bell from Lance Rozeboom. Containing Manfut from sneaking past the back-line will be crucial in keeping chances away from goalkeeper Mark Pais.
The playoff run for the Orange and Blue have been anything but comfortable. Miami has been unable to take a lead into half-time since their Sunshine Conference Semi-Final against Jacksonville. Cleveland have the tendency to go down early and come roaring back. Midfielders Dylan Mares and Ariel Martinez must implore their squad to keep their foot on the gas the entire match. If Miami were to get an early goal, it will be crucial to find a quick second in order to test the will of Cleveland.
I don’t believe the Orange and Blue will see this one out easily. With each NPSL playoff match being closely contested, it will take another strong effort from Dalglish’s men to return to the championship. Cleveland’s tendency to allow early goals against their opponents is their Achilles’ heel. While the Midwest Region boasts some powerful attacks, none measure up to the quality of the Miami FC. Pair that with a defense that bends but doesn’t break, and you have a recipe for success.
The Miami FC 4 – 2 Cleveland SC
The NPSL Semi-Final will be hosted Saturday June 27th at FIU Soccer Stadium. Please note that FIU Soccer Stadium is not Riccardo Silva Stadium. Tickets for the match are still available and can be purchased by clicking here. If you are unable to make the match, follow your Orange and Blue live on MyCujoo. Our broadcast feed can be found by clicking here.