FC Kendall poses for a team photo after a 4-2 win over Nashville United in the 2018 US Open Cup qualifying tournament. Photo: FC Kendall
On Saturday, Nov. 18, FC Kendall’s flight left Miami at 6:30 a.m. and arrived in Nashville about four hours later. With only a few hours of sleep, the team anxiously waited and prepared for their “Win & You’re In” match in the 2018 US Open Cup qualifying tournament against Nashville United.
FC Kendall owner Mauro Grignola called it the “most important game in the history of the club thus far.”
After their lengthy trip to Nashville, which was a risky one considering they were flying out the morning of the gameday, they got settled and defeated the home team in a heavy rain storm, 4-2 to qualify for the US Open Cup for the first time.
The clouds were already thick when FC Kendall arrived in Music City before lunchtime. The winds picked up throughout the afternoon ahead of the 7 p.m. kickoff at Richard Siegel Soccer Park in nearby Murfeesboro, Tenn. With heavy rain in the forecast, the two teams agreed to move the match to the original venue, E.S. Rose Park in Nashville, (it was moved to Murfeesboro in the weeks leading up to the match) which featured an artificial turf field.
On the way to the field, players and coaches were receiving alerts on their phones informing them of a tornado warning. Fifteen minutes before kickoff, the rain stopped, but the gusty winds of more than 40 mph remained. The match commissioner and the referees decided that the game would begin on time.
After winning the coin flip, Nashville United decided to defend against the wind and they were more comfortable on their home field, creating a couple of chances which forced FC Kendall Ronald Garces into action in the opening five minutes.
FC Kendall, a team representing the American Premier Soccer League, started to build possession, and created a few wind-aided shots, but Nashville maintained control and no one was able to find a goal in the opening half-hour.
Shortly after the half-hour mark, FC Kendall took control of the match. It all started with an impressive combination play that found Daniel Gonzales on the right wing. Gonzales, a former captain at Florida International University, sent a low cross into the box where former Fort Lauderdale Strikers player Gonzalo de Mujica put the ball into the back of the net at close range.
Just a few minutes later, Gonzales was back at it again, as he made a run and was fouled just outside of the box. Former NASL player Martin Nunez, took the free kick and with a little help from the wind, he found the back of the net to make it 2-0.
And just a few minutes after the second goal, FC Kendall scored another. It was another similar combination play from the first goal. This time, it was Jona Andrade who was open on the right side of the penalty area. Andrade turned and beat the keeper with a low shot to the right of the netminder to give the visitors at three-goal lead.
Kendall did not take their foot off the gas pedal as they added one more goal before the halftime break. Santiago Schmid beat two defenders and fired a shot into the upper corner, to the left of the goalkeeper.
FC Kendall continued to put the pressure on but a couple of chances failed as they went into the halftime break with a 4-0 lead. On a windy and cold night, the visitors, used to the warm Florida weather raced into the locker room.
In the second half, Nashville came out firing and put pressure on Kendall. United received a pair of goals from Andrew Chamberlain (60th min.) and Joe Omondi (75th min.) but ultimately Kendall would hold on to win 4-2 to secure the club’s first-ever trip to the US Open Cup.