NPSL: Miami FC 2 overcomes uncertainty to capture championship


A year after winning both halves of the NASL regular season, a slimmed down version of Miami FC -- Miami FC 2 -- won the NPSL championship by beating New Jersey's FC Motown, 3-1, in front of a sellout crowd of 2,143 at Drew University.

Players like Stefano Pinho (Orlando City), Kwadwo Poku (Russia's Anzhi Makhachkala, then Tampa Bay Rowdies), Richie Ryan (FC Cincinnati) and Vincenzo Rennella (Spain's Extremadura) moved on, but 2017 Best XI picks Daniel Vega, Mason Trafford and Dylan Mares and eight other players remained despite the uncertainty about the team's future.

Miami FC played at FIU's 20,000-seat Riccardo Silva Stadium; Miami FC 2 had to play before tiny crowds at St. Thomas University's Bobcat Field. Paul Dalglish wasn't appointed to take charge of Miami FC 2 in place of Italian Alessandro Nesta until late January when the club confirmed its move into the NPSL.

But Miami FC 2 lost only two games all season -- 3-1 to Miami United FC in the U.S. Open Cup and 1-0 to the Jacksonville Armada, another team from the NASL, in league play -- and dominated in the playoffs with wins of  3-1, 2-1, 3-0, 3-0 and 3-1.

Mares had the winning goal in the 59th minute in the final, two minutes after FC Motown's Chris Riordan was sent off for receiving his second yellow card.

Jonny Steele, who has been with the FC Miami organization since 2016, scored in the 33rd minute and midfielder Jeff Michaud put the game away in the 82nd minute. Dilly Duka, one of three MLS veterans on the FC Motown roster, evened the scored three minutes after Steele's opening goal.

“We have done it the right way and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Dalglish. “There’s not anything that these guys can’t overcome when we work together. We didn’t play great at times tonight, but the mentality was always great. That is what you need. You need players that want to win. Finals aren’t for playing. They’re for winning and we did that.”
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