Last year, TheCup.us chronicled Red Force FC for the “Meet the Underdogs” series as the club qualified after missing out the two previous years. The feature told the story of how the club was a family affair. After their success in local tournaments and qualifying for the 2018 edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for the fourth time in six years, they are looking to shed the title of “underdog”.
Red Force FC is an amateur soccer team that is based out of Miami, Fla. They play in the American Premier Soccer League (APSL) that falls under the USASA umbrella. Over the past few seasons they have found themselves in the upper half of the league, finishing fourth in 2017 with 15 points in 10 matches (4-3-3).
The road to the cup for Red Force began like most other amateur entrants, in the qualifying stages. On Sept. 24, 2017, the path would begin with a match against FC Ginga (UPSL) in Miami Shores on the campus of Barry University. The game would be decided by half time as Red Force went into the break with a 4-0 advantage with goals coming from Scott Gordon, John Tamayo and a pair from Sergio Van Kanten. Red Force would add another four in the half, running away with the first-round victory 8-1.
Next up for Red Force would be Miami Nacional S.C., a known foe that also plays in the APSL. In what could go down as one of the most bizarre games recent Open Cup history, Red Force quickly went up 4-0 in the first half of the second round match. The route prompted Nacional coach, David Garcia, to argue a penalty decision with the referee. After not getting the intended result, Garcia ordered his team to abandon the pitch and a 5th goal would be awarded to Red Force and the game called at the 44th minute. (Miami Nacional was punished for this unprecedented action)
In less than a month’s time, Red Force FC would take on South Florida FC, yet another APSL club, in the final round of qualifying. In what proved to be the most difficult test for Red Force throughout the qualifying stages, both clubs would enter the half at zero a piece. In the 80th minute South Florida FC would find the opening goal of the match. Not to be outdone, Scott Gordon would find the equalizer in the 88th minute. Stiven Salinas would find the game-winning goal early in the first half of extra time and advance Red Force into the 2018 Open Cup.
“Red Force has been able to add Matteo Mendoza, a key defender who is new to the squad. Omar Persad is another relatively new key player for us. Persad has appeared with Valencia B (Spain) and the United States Under-23 National Team, and is an effective center midfielder,” said Christian Vega from Red Force.
Another key player is Juan “Juanka” Jimenez, who tallied six goals in one contest for Red Force.
“He’s all about speed,” said Vega. “He’s a runner, and he gives us space and stretches out the field.”
According to Vega, most of Juanka’s goals come from through-balls or balls that allow him space to get past the opposing defense. Juanka has also notably spent time with the other Miami local qualifier FC Kendall.
As mentioned previously, perhaps Red Force FC are not truly underdogs anymore. The club made the finals of the Romero Cup pre-season tournament in Miami, losing to Miami United FC (NPSL). The club has qualified for the US Open cup for the second consecutive year and for the fourth time in the past six tournaments.
Another new addition for Red Force comes outside of the pitch.
“Hernan Pereyra from ESPN Deportes has come to help us out,” said Vega about his club’s new technical director. “For a long time it’s been my dad and I running our two squads and Hernan has been a close friend to us over the last couple of years. Pereyra wanted to be involved with local soccer for years and he’s been a great addition to our club.”
When asked about the future of Red Force’s club and potentially entering the NPSL, Vega noted that there were no plans at the time of making such a leap. Red Force is in the process of creating an academy team, which would expand the reach of the club and develop the next generation of players for the squad. South Florida’s local youth academies have been the building blocks for some of the world’s best footballers, something Red Force is hoping to replicate.
Last year’s first round exit to a talented South Florida Surf (PDL) team is in the rear-view mirror but this year’s first round test can prove to be even tougher. Red Force FC will have to take on the winner of the local play-in match, Miami FC 2. Miami boasts professional experience that isn’t common of an early entrant. The match may just prove once and for all that Red Force is no longer the familiar underdog, but a powerhouse in the making.