By Jeremy Goldman/Central Florida Panthers SC
In a great performance from the entire team at home, the Panthers were able to secure a 4-2 victory against Miami Beach CF. The home team was boosted by the initial season debut of player mentor and former Orlando City and Canadian National Team captain Will Johnson. Unfortunately, his debut had to be cut short after a quad injury in the ninth minute. After that, the Panthers made things difficult for themselves with some shaky play, providing Miami Beach with some early opportunities. Ignacio Ten Lopez, who was Miami Beach’s hero in the first meeting between the two clubs, would put the visitors ahead in the 21st minute. He would score a tap-in off of a cross after a very strong individual play from teammate Kerry Sarmiento who made the most of a turnover.
In response, the Panthers would start to settle down ultimately generating more attacking opportunities thanks to stellar play from the midfield. In the 40th minute, Man of the Match Kevin Kelly would receive a pass from Cole Cecconi and with all the confidence put a powerful shot that slipped right out of the keeper’s grasp from 20 yards out, tying it at 1-1. This would be his first of two crucial goals this game.
Starting halftime without being in a deficit was crucial for the midfield of the Panthers in being able to take over this game. Charles Ahl’s tough physicality and precise passing were an X-factor in the Panther’s triumphant team win. Ahl’s vision during the 60th minute of the game helped set up the second goal when he received a pass from defender Anthony Facundo Pineyro and quickly sent the ball down the wing, getting it to Stetson teammate Steele Norton.
Norton would whip in a cross just out of the stretched keeper’s hands to Kelly who was able to convert off of a volley. This was a game-changing moment in the game as the Panthers would rally to score another goal only four minutes later when Pineyro would score off of an Ahl free kick.
Although the Panthers were playing on all cylinders, Miami Beach stormed down the field in the 70th minute, causing a turnover in a dangerous area for the Panthers. This would lead to Miami Beach taking a powerful shot on goal but it was deflected by a Panthers defender and ended up in the goal. This would put Miami back in the game with their second goal as well as bringing the score line to 3-2.
With hope in Miami Beach’s favor, Stephon Davis of the Panthers would take matters into his own hands coming off the bench, causing an immediate impact from his first touching the pitch until the final whistle. Utilizing his speed, Davis was able to create a couple opportunities. In the 89th minute, the icing was put on the cake when Davis received an ill-placed backpass from the visitors’ midfielder, turned towards goal and from 18 yards out, perfectly placed a phenomenal strike in the upper 90. This gave the keeper no chance to make the save, and the game finished as a 4-2 win for the Panthers.
“That was a quality win versus a quality side,” Panthers manager Tom Traxler said. “It took us longer to settle in than I’d like but our response each time they scored was fantastic. We’ve had good performances this season where we didn’t get the reward so tonight it was good to see the guys get the three points for their hard work.”
After this thrilling victory, the Panthers look to keep the stellar teamwork going for their next game on the road against Magia FC on June 18 at 6:00 pm. Central Florida Panthers have only four regular season games left. Their next two games are away, and the last two games are at home. The Panthers look to win the remaining games this season In hopes of keeping the momentum going.
It was great seeing other former Orlando City standouts Dennis Chin and Lewis Neal in attendance, and the latter joined the broadcast team at halftime for an interview. Neal donated his time as an assistant coach with the Panthers last season and has been a supporter of the club’s mission since day 1. He has continued his work in coaching, and it’s obvious that he has a big future on the sidelines.
The Panthers’ next home game will be Wednesday, June 29 versus current conference leaders Miami United FC at Lake Brantley High School with a 7:00 pm kickoff. Please click here for tickets, and stay tuned to the club’s social media channels for what is ahead for the Panthers.
Photo Credit: Scott Miller