By Michael Lewis
Sacir Hot got right to the point when talking about Miami FC 2, FC Motown’s opponent in the National Premier Soccer League championship game.
“We have to play a perfect game in order to try to beat them,” he said.
The FC Motown head coach knows his team will be in for a battle and a half when it hosts the Sunshine Conference champions at Ranger Stadium on the campus of Drew University in Madison, N.J. Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Miami FC 2 has 11 players from its North American Soccer League team that finished atop the table in 2017. Its talented roster includes midfielder Dylan Mares, who was named to the NPSL National XI this week, center back Mason Trafford, who has considered experience in the NASL, and goalkeeper Daniel Vega.
“This probably will be the hardest game of the year, in all due respect to all the teams that we have played,” he said Thursday. “I think that Miami is a phenomenal team. On paper they can easily be playing in the professional ranks. This is going to be the toughest challenge.
“It makes sense that its in the final because in the final you’ll never play an easy game and the hardest game of the year happens to be in the final. Our guys need to be prepared and we are prepared and we’ll take it as the hardest game in our history.”
Miami FC’s talented roster includes midfielder Dylan Mares, who was named to the NPSL National XI this week, center back Mason Trafford, who has considered experience in the NASL, and goalkeeper Daniel Vega.
“They have a lot of quality on their team,” Hot said. “Every position holds a phenomenal player. There’re not too many weaknesses on Miami. They’re technically sound. They have a really good coach. They can keep the ball, they possess the ball. They’re mature, they’re experienced. There’re not too many weaknesses we can expose from them. We have to play a perfect game in order to try to beat them.”
Added midfielder Dilly Duka: “We’re going need a strong start to the game and try to limit their opportunities going forward as much as possible.”
It’s not that FC Motown isn’t without its stars with professional experience, including Duka, a former Major League Soccer midfielder, and Trinidad & Tobago international defender Julius James on the first-year side, among other players.
“It is extremely tough for an expansion team to get started on the right foot, no matter the level,” Duka said. “FC Motown’s owner and staff have built a relaxed culture with no expectations, which has made every game this year fun. We’re in the Final, and we beat a lot of good organizations to get here. FC Motown’s management clearly doing something right.”
Beyond what will transpire on the field, it is a big match for north Jersey, which hasn’t seen many high-profile championship soccer games involving local teams. When the Red Bulls reached the 2008 MLS Cup, it played Columbus Crew SC in Carson, Calif., some 3,000 miles west. In 2003, the MetroStars, the Red Bulls’ forerunners, hosted the Chicago Fire in the 2003 Lamar Hunt Open Cup final at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., but that encounter did not receive much fanfare.
“It’s colossal, this game, cream of the crop,” Hot said. “You always want to test yourself against the best opponents. It really shows where you stand in the scheme of things when you play against the best. And then on top of that to playing against the best in front of our friends and families it’s awesome.
“Red Bulls are a lot closer to New York. You don’t see too many professional teams play further than Montclair, New Jersey. So, it’s nice to be able to bring this kind of attention and this kind of atmosphere to Morristown. Morristown can be considered one of the treasures of New Jersey. So, it’s nice to have all eyes and attention on Morristown and Madison — they’re right next to each other — in the final. That’s something that’s huge for our club.
“That’s one of our mission statements — to create a local club that can bring out the local fans in the Morristown area to see exciting soccer.”
Duka lives in Morris County, so he has a vested interest in this game on several levels.
“As a Morris county resident, I’d be very happy to win something with FC Motown,” he said. “We have the opportunity to do something very special, in our local area, that will be cemented in history with a growing league like the NPSL.”
So, Hot is hoping for a full house at Ranger Stadium. The stadium holds 1,200. FC Motown’s national semifinal against FC Mulhouse Portland last Saturday attracted a crowd of about 800.
“We’re hoping to have a huge crowd there on Saturday,” he said. “I think that having home field advantage could make or break a game. Our owners and volunteers have worked hard to promote this game and get bodies in the stands. My gut says that we’ll have a great crowd for the final.”
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