By Neil Blackmon/The Yanks are Coming
Daniel Navarro’s strike in the 75th minute helped visited Miami United FC defeat Boca Raton 1-0 in Saturday night’s installment of the South Florida Derby. The hosts defended valiantly after going down a man in the opening moments of the second half, but were unable to hold off Miami United FC after half an hour of nearly relentless pressure from the pink and black clad visitors. The win keeps Stefano Agresti’s team second in the Sunshine Conference and was the third win for Miami United FC over Boca this season, with an opening night win and Open Cup win already in the side’s pocket.
The opening half was fairly even, with Miami United’s trademark pressure and stylish passing generating plenty of possession, but lacking the decisive ball and finish. Boca Raton FC, meanwhile, were pleased to sit back and wait for chances to break on the counter, which came throughout the opening 45 minutes. Both teams had tremendous chances in the game’s first half hour.
First, in only the 8th minute, Miami United FC captain Ezequiel Tejera played a slicing through ball to Jacapo Campilli, who saw his ten-yard effort slice just wide of the far post. Boca nearly scored themselves in minute 20, when a beautiful parabola from influential midfielder Shadi Harb found the feet of Junior Prevalus only to see the striker weakly tap the ball wide in space.
Miami United inched closer near the break, again with Tejera front and center. Rafinha played the captain through down the left channel and Tejera beat Boca Raton FC goalkeeper Daniel Tavares to the ball and dribbled around him, only to rattle the woodwork of an empty net.
The game changed early in the second half, when Ezequiel Tejera and Boca Raton FC fullback Jason Fitzgerald engaged in pleasantries along the right sideline. The exchange resulted in a red card, giving Miami the man advantage. Matiaz Menza and substitute David Santamaria both had golden chances to put the visitors ahead, only to be held by Boca Raton keeper Daniel Tavares, who was outstanding on the evening, making six saves. But the pressure finally broke in the 75th, when moments after a brilliant Tavares save on Tejera, the visitors scored off an ensuing short corner, Santamaria playing a ball to Navarro, who had just enough space to tuck a beauty in the top corner.
Surprisingly, it was Boca who looked more dangerous thereafter, as Miami United FC struggled to hold the ball and the lead. The insertion of Nickardo Blake by Boca Raton FC made an immense difference, and in minute 82, nearly resulted in an equalizer when he and Shadi Harb combined to play Junior Prevalus through on the counter, only to see Junior’s effort bravely saved by Miami keeper Carlos Alfaro. The hosts had two more chances to equalize on late corners late as well, only to see them safely repelled by a sturdy Miami defense.
Boca Raton FC were brave playing a man down, but it is fair to ask whether they should have been in that position. Jason Fitzgerald was sent off for retaliating in an incident initiated by Miami United FC captain Ezequiel Tejera. And in the opening half, Boca Raton FC had legitimate claims to two penalty kicks. First, a Harb blast was clearly swatted down with a hand in the area by Miami United’s Rafinha, but no penalty was awarded. Later, Stefano Bontempo was shoved down from behind on a set piece by Tejera, who had lost his mark. Again, the referee awarded nothing, only to whistle a phantom foul on Miami United FC moments later, as if trying to compensate for missing the clear penalty. Both incidents would have given Boca a great chance to take the lead before going down a man in the second frame.