Playing at home in their ninth competitive match, Miami FC fell by a 2-1 score to the USL Wilmington Hammerheads. Miami (1-3-4 in the NASL) hoped to build on Saturday’s first-ever franchise win over FC Edmonton, but the Hammerheads, coming off of their own 3-1 victory against Toronto FC II, ended up notching their second in a row instead.
The Hammerheads (3-4-3 in USL play) came ready for action and took the lead in the 2nd minute when Michael Lahoud of Miami FC coughed up the ball to Mathew Barnes-Homer in central midfield 35 yards from his own goal. Homer found the feet of Jeff Michaud, and with no pressure on the ball from Miami, the midfielder trapped the ball and took a touch to his right, into the center of the Miami defense. He lashed a dipping right-footed shot from 25 yards out to the near post, beating Miami keeper David Sierra for the lead, silencing the faint cheers from the stands of the Florida International University stadium.
The sparse home crowd soon fell into an even deeper funk. A normally harmless Wilmington throw-in taken inside the visitor’s own half, was tipped back by Miami’s Hugo Leroux, straight into the path of a charging Justin Moose on the left side of the Miami defense. The midfielder drove in diagonally from the touchline, battling off a Miami FC challenge. Moose found himself loose in the Miami box. Sierra rushed unafraid into the path of the charging Moose, only to see the Hammerhead’s shot from 12 yards out sail low to his right and inside his far post.
Punch-drunk, Miami only recorded one shot on goal during the first half, and only began to string together passes in the midfield with five minutes remaining until the break.
At halftime, Miami made two changes. Jaime Chavez came in for Dane Richards, and Dario Cvitanich entered for Pablo Campos.
The newcomers made a significant impact on the game. Cvitanich initiated the most dangerous offensive movements for Miami in the second half, and Chavez was on the end of many of them.
Miami’s Martinez saw his low 25 yard drive in the 49th minute deflected to the left of the Wilmington goal by Eric Ati. Less than a minute later, Chavez found himself pursuing a chipped ball into the box, and barely missed to the same side with a looping ball over the keeper’s outstretched arms.
In the 52nd minute the Floridians broke through on a long ball from defender Adailton from 10 yards inside his own half. The ball arced over the center of the Wilmington backline and into the path of Chavez, who took the ball 30 yards away from the Wilmington goal. He took a shot from about 16 yards out, the ball flew over the keeper’s hips as he dove towards his near post.
Miami continued to press, and were dominating the game. In the 64th minute, Wilmington’s Tom Parrat charged into the outstretched leg of Cvitanich to draw the game’s first yellow card. Miami’s Lahoud followed with his own when he dropped a streaking Austin Martz before the Hammerhead could escape his own half on a breakaway.
Miami had a golden chance to tie the score in the 79th minute when Cvitanich’s chipped pass in to the box found Chavez, who was caught by Eric Ati after he tipped ball over the keeper’s right shoulder and towards the far post. Ati felled Chavez, and the referee decided that Ati should receive a yellow card and Miami a penalty kick.
Cvitanich took the kick, cooly driving it with his right foot to the keeper’s right post. Ati read the kicker’s intentions and dove with conviction, parrying the kick harmlessly past his post.
Miami seemed deflated after the setback, and lost their patience during the rest of regular time. In the 88th minute Adailton drew his own yellow for tripping a Wilmington player on his way into the Miami half.
With the win, Wilmington secures their first win over a Division 2 team in regulation since 2006.
Miami registered one more shot on goal during four minutes of added time, but it was a weak toe poke by Chavez that Ati collected easily.
Wilmington will go on to the next round where they face MLS side Real Salt Lake.