By The Miami FC
The Miami FC used two second-half goals to edge out Chattanooga FC in the NPSL South Region semifinals on Tuesday night. With the victory, Miami will now host Tulsa Athletic in the South Region final.
The match started out with both teams struggling to find their footing, as the two defenses consistently cut out passes that were seeking to break through the defensive lines. The defensive intensity led to zero shots being taken through the first 10 minutes of the match.
The first shot of the match from either side came in the 13th minute, by way of an acrobatic Ariel Martínez scissor kick from close range that was blocked by a Chattanooga defender.
In the 27th minute, the crossbar denied Miami the opening salvo of the match. Dylan Mares crossed the ball into the box from the right side, which was met by a flying Callum
Chapman-Page who beat two defenders in the air to unleash a powerful header that ricocheted off the top of the goal and bounced away.
The first half ended with the match gridlocked at 0-0. Miami came out of the break with more intensity and a clear plan to attack directly.
In the 55th minute, Miami threatened to open the scoring once again. An interception by Brian James allowed Mares to leak out with the ball and push it forward to Martínez on the break. Martínez sprinted past his defender, cut inside to his right foot and let go of a shot that needed a sure save from Chattanooga’s goalkeeper.
Miami’s insistent offensive pressure eventually led to the match’s initial goal in the 66th minute. Following a corner kick, the ball was put back into the box by Lloyd Sam for Chapman-Page to head down and find Hector Morales within a sea of bodies. Morales took advantage of the small window of opportunity and powered his shot into the back of the net from close range.
A stroke of good fortune saw the Orange and Blue get a chance to double its lead in the 79th minute, when a Martínez corner kick floated over everyone and landed at the feet of Mares at the edge of the box. Mares took one touch forward to his left and was brought down in the box by a Chattanooga defender, who was whistled for a penalty.
Just as he did in the Sunshine Conference final, Martínez took charge of the spot kick and gave Miami a crucial goal in a huge match. With the goalkeeper diving to his left, Martínez went the other direction and bulleted his shot to put Miami up 2-0.
Miami needed an impressive performance from its collective defensive unit on Tuesday night, and it fully got it. The Orange and Blue covered well and made timely tackles. A late save from goalkeeper Mark Pais on a close-range rocket from Joao Costa preserved the clean sheet and finalized Miami’s passage into the final.
The Miami FC now hosts the South Region final on Saturday, July 20th against Tulsa Athletic. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 pm from Buccaneer Field at Barry University.
Photo Credit: Orovio Photography