Duluth FC’s Historic 2018 Run Ends in Miami

Miami FC 2 vs. Duluth FC
St. Thomas University, Bobcat Field | Miami, FL
7.28.18 | National Semi-Final

2018 Regular Season Records (W-L-D):
Duluth: 8-2-4 out of 14
Miami: 8-1-3 out of 12

Having won the Midwest Regional Title only a week before, Duluth FC traveled to Miami to face Miami FC 2 in the National Semi-Finals, the winner of which would eventually face FC Motown in the NPSL Final. Having managed a tough run through the regional playoffs in which the BlueGreens played three games of 120 minutes and went through two penalty kick shootouts, Duluth traveled to face what may have been their toughest opponent in the club’s history. Miami FC 2, the second team for the currently off-season NASL side of the same name, included professional players, many of which with MLS, USL, or NASL experience.

While the pregame process came with many obstacles to pass, Duluth were able to bring together the same starting eleven that had pushed them through the regional playoffs to face Miami.

The first half was largely possessed by Miami 2, who consistently put Duluth to the test, but strong performances from the likes of Jan Hoffelner, Ryan Tyrer, Gonnie Ben-Tal, Sora Wakabayashi, and Julian Villegas kept Duluth in the game. Miami’s first strike would find its way home in the 36th minute after drawing a penalty on the edge of the 18 yard box. Ariel Martinez would take it, sending Jan Hoffelner the wrong way with a clever stutter in his run and putting his side up 1-0. The half would end that way, with both sides in range of a win and Duluth’s counter attack approach looking like it could prove deadly against the pro side.

The second half, one that would be do-or-die for Duluth, would prove the game winner for Miami 2. Their second goal would come from a brilliant glancing header from Tomas Greco in the 75th while the third would be finished by Jeff Michaud after a successful counter attack by Miami in the 90th executed against a Duluth side that had put most of its power on the attack as they looked to throw themselves back in the game.

While the eventual 3-0 score line would strongly favor Miami 2, the BlueGreens would earn strong moments throughout the match. Jan Hoffelner would manage ten strong saves, some off the line, while Soham Kathuria, Santiago Castro, Tom Corcoran, Aidan Hill, and Nico Railef would put strong shifts in the midfield helping to create Duluth’s few chances in the low possession match. Ricardo Ramos, who subbed in toward the end of the second half, managed some of Duluth’s best chances with two free kicks that sailed just over the crossbar.

While the loss means the BlueGreens’ 2018 season is over, and we’ll be sure to recap this historic season further in the near future, it still provides an example of how far the small club from the small city have come. Their efforts would bring the club their first regional title, a place in the final four, and perhaps more respect and interest than the club has ever known before.

Lineups –
Duluth FC Starting XI: Santiago Castro, Brooks Rice, Julian Villegas, Gonnie Ben-Tal, Kyle Farrar, Sora Wakabayashi, Ryan Tyrer, Joe Watt, Soham Kathuria, Tom Corcoran, Jan Hoffelner
Subs: Aidan Hill for Tom Corcoran, Alberto Ciroi for Jan Hoffelner, Ricardo Ramos for Kyle Farrar, Liam Moore for Joe Watt, Dana Kowachek for Julian Villegas, Ivan Adika for Santiago Castro, Nico Railef for Soham Kathuria

‘36 – Ariel Martinez (PEN) (MIA)
’75 – Sean McFarlane (MIA)
’90 – Jeff Michaud (MIA)