By Hannah Bernick/Florida Roots FC
This match marked a special event for the teams that qualified for the 850 Cup. The Florida Roots FC, Pensacola FC, and Tallahassee SC make up this special sector of the NPSL’s Gulf Coast Conference. The winner of this game between the Florida Roots FC and Pensacola FC would decide the 2022 owner of the cup.
Fans from both clubs packed the stadium in support of their teams. The reigning owner of the 850 Cup, Pensacola FC, were determined to hold their title. The fight brought by the Roots was proving to make it difficult for the Pelicans.
Florida’s continued drive paid off in the 15th minute when Chris McKenna scored. The crowd roared as the Roots were one goal closer to obtaining the 850 Cup.
Sadly, the Roots’ lead did not last long. In the 23rd minute the Pelicans made a break for the goal and Florida’s defenders were left to catch up. Goalkeeper Joshua Burton dove but was unable to save it. The fight to score again led to two Roots players, Andrew Beasley and Gabriel Villafane Vidal, obtaining yellow cards.
With each team desperately striving to take the lead, the aggression on the field grew. The match went into the half tied 1-1 with both teams having an equal shot of winning the hardware.
The start of the second half was difficult for the keepers as both keepers were challenged with shots on goal. It wasn’t until the 61st minute that Pensacola landed a shot on goal and broke the tie, taking a 2-1 lead. The Pelicans furthered their drive again, scoring another goal six minutes later with vengeance in sight for the Roots.
The match’s competitiveness continued to grow with the minutes dwindling down. Another yellow card was given to the Roots in the 74th minute.
An attack in the 83rd minute was proven successful for the Florida Roots FC as Ricardo Smith broke away from Pensacola’s defense and hit the ball square in the back of the net. Roots fans cheered as they felt the 850 Cup nearing their reach.
A foul in the box led to a penalty kick for Pensacola. The successful conversion brought the score to 4-2.
Although it was a well-fought game with a last-minute goal, the Florida Roots still came up empty-handed. The 850 Cup may stay with the Pelicans, but the Roots plan to come back stronger next year and win the coveted trophy.
“I was disappointed in the results,” Roots head coach Richard Kinniburgh stated. “There were elements of the performance that were good like coming back into the game to make it 3-2. As difficult as it is, we need to focus on being prepared for Jacksonville.”
The Roots hosted a fan night where attendees were able to stay after the match for autographs. An Instagram contest was also held with the prize being a signed ball.
After this defeat, the Roots find themselves with a record of 3-5-0. Pensacola FC now find their season record at 3-2-1. The Florida Roots FC hit the pitch again next Saturday, June 18th at Jacksonville Armada FC U-23. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 pm CT.
Photos Courtesy of Florida Roots FC