The Miami FC hosted an NPSL national semifinal at FIU Soccer Stadium on Saturday night and came out victorious by beating Cleveland SC 4-1. Miami will now take on New York Cosmos B in the National Championship.
Throughout the first 15 minutes of the match, Miami’s high pressure consistently forced Cleveland into mistakes while attempting to play out from the back. Those errors led directly to scoring chances for Miami, particularly in the 11th and 12th minutes, when the Orange and Blue got a pair of chances to go ahead back-to-back.
First, Ariel Martínez stole the ball in Cleveland’s area of the field and quickly fed Miguel González, whose powerful shot was saved by Cleveland’s goalkeeper. Less than a minute later, another Cleveland giveaway from one of its defenders saw Martínez serving up another attacker in a dangerous position, this time Darío Suárez, but a defender closed out Suárez at the end of the play and blocked his shot that was headed towards goal.
Late in the first half, Miami once again strung scoring chances together in quick succession. In the 42nd minute, Callum Chapman-Page played a line-breaking pass from just in front of the midfield line that found Martínez at the edge of the box, but Martínez’ left-footed strike was deflected wide for a corner kick.
One minute later, Brian James played in Martínez with a perfectly slipped in through ball that put Martínez one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Martínez’ clever chip with his right foot was stonewalled by the onrushing goalkeeper and the ball fell back to Martínez, who couldn’t quite find a Miami attacker in the box before the ball was cleared.
Miami finished the half with 12 total shots – five of which were on goal – and held Cleveland to zero shots on goal. While the match was gridlocked at 0-0 at the break, Miami continued its trend of dismantling opponents in the second halves of matches.
It took all of eight minutes for Miami to take control of the match in the second half. Martínez took charge of a corner kick and played an in-swinging ball that Chapman-Page flew high to meet with his head and direct his powerful shot into the left side of the net to put Miami up 1-0.
Just two minutes later, Miami extended its lead through Martínez, who has now scored in every single playoff match for the Orange and Blue. González and James interchanged passes beautifully on the right wing and allowed the former to free himself in the box. González laced a pass to Martínez to the top of the box, Martínez shook free of his defender with a body feint and pushed home a left-footed strike that snuck into the bottom right corner of the net.
Miami’s third goal of the match came in the 80th minute, when González popped up yet again in a dangerous position. He found acres of space on the right flank, carried the ball into the box and poked his finish past the goalkeeper to give Miami a 3-0 advantage.
Cleveland was able to retaliate in the 84th minute, when Mike Derezic booted a swerving long shot that got past Miami goalkeeper Mark Pais and gave Miami something to think about in the final minutes of the match.
The Orange and Blue responded dynamically, putting the match to bed in the 89th minute. Shawn Chin took control of the ball on the right wing and played a sideways pass to Harrison Heath in the box. Heath proceeded to uncork a rocket that flew into the upper left 90 of the goal for Miami’s fourth and final goal.
The Miami FC will now look to defend its NPSL national championship against New York Cosmos B. For the second-consecutive year, Miami will travel northeast for the Final. The match will be played at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, New York on Saturday, August 3 at 7:00 pm ET.
Photo Credit: Orovio Photography