By The Miami FC
The Miami FC erased a 2-1 deficit and beat Miami United FC 3-2 in the NPSL Sunshine Conference final on Saturday night, winning its sixth overall trophy in the process.
As expected, fireworks began early, with Miami United FC taking advantage of a mistimed offside trap and got Shamar Shelton through on goal in the third minute. Miami FC goalkeeper Mark Pais held his ground and bailed Miami out with a stellar save on the one-versus-one.
Three minutes later, a nice play down the left flank saw Miguel González bring down an Ariel Martínez cross for Mohamed Thiaw to attempt a chilena that was nearly on frame.
Miami’s breakthrough came in the eighth minute, when a Dylan Mares free kick was mishandled by United defender Javier Chila and whistled for a handball. Martínez stepped up to the penalty spot with ice in his veins and chipped a Panenka down the middle and past diving goalkeeper Omar Estrada.
Just as it seemed Miami would keep its first half lead intact, Miami United struck for an equalizer through a soaring header from Bruno Camacho on a corner kick.
Three minutes later, United extended its lead on a well-worked counter attack. Brian Perea found space down the right wing and crossed to the far post, where Shelton buried his effort and gave his team a 2-1 advantage going into halftime.
The Orange and Blue used the break to tweak its game plan and rally behind each other.
Just as he has all season, Mohamed Thiaw got Miami’s offense going. In the 56th minute, Thiaw played a defense-piercing through ball to Martínez that put the midfielder in a prime scoring position. Martínez sensed the onrushing goalkeeper and slipped a shot around him, but the ball carried slightly wide of the far post.
Miami poured on the pressure and took advantage of the shifting tide and equalized one minute later. Another Thiaw through ball split the defense open, this time to Miguel González, who ran on to the ball and played it to the middle for Mares.
Mares laid the ball off to Martínez next to him and Martínez uncorked a powerful volley that beat an outstretched Estrada to tie the match at 2-2.
Following an impressive spell of play, Miami took a deserved lead in the 66th minute. A brilliant pass from Mares broke United’s defensive line and set up Martínez in front of the goalkeeper once again. Martínez dribbled to his right and pulled the goalkeeper out before playing the ball to the middle of the box for González. Then González slotted home into a goalkeeper-less net and put Miami up 3-2.
Miami nearly got a much-needed insurance goal in the 73rd minute, following a ridiculous display of dribbling technique from Mares that saw him take several defenders out of the play. He ended up teeing up Thiaw for a finish, but Estrada did well to deflect the shot wide of the goal.
The Orange and Blue defended valiantly and held up the ball when needed over the last 15 minutes of the match and came away with a crucial victory in the Sunshine Conference Final.
The Miami FC will now await Chattanooga FC, champions of the Southeast Conference, at Buccaneer Field at Barry University, where the Orange and Blue will host a South Region semifinal.
Photo Courtesy of The Miami FC