Game action in Miami FC’s 3-1 NPSL championship win over FC Motown. (Photo by OnsidePhotography)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

MADISON, N.J. — FC Motown will have to wait until next year to celebrate a National Premier Soccer League championship as its story-brook season came to a disappointing end Saturday night.

Forced to play the final 33 minutes of the match short-handed due to a pair of red cards, the expansion team lost to Miami FC 2 in the championship game, 3-1, at a packed Ranger Stadium at Drew University Saturday night.

Midfield maestro Dylan Mares, voted the MVP of the match, and second-half substitute Jeff Michaud scored in the final hour half to snap a 1-1 deadlock to lift the visitors to the victory before an FC Motown record crowd of 2,143.

The game’s complexion changed in the 58th minute when defender Christopher Riordan was awarded his second yellow card for fouling Jaime Chavez just outside the penalty area a minute prior as he was given his marching orders. Riordan was slapped with his first yellow in the 11th minute.

Two minutes later, Mares rocketed his free kick under the defensive wall and past a diving goalkeeper Kabo Danso to lift the visitors into a 2-1 edge.

After FC Motown tried to equalize on a few occasions, including Lucas Terci’s point-blank attempt that sailed over the crossbar, Miami FC 2 tallied an insurance goal to give it some breathing room on Michaud’s counterattack goal for a two-goal bulge in 82nd minute.

Second-half sub Nelson Becerra was awarded a straight red card three minutes into stoppage time. Seconds later, the game ended.

“We have done it the right way and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Miami FC 2 head coach Paul Dalglish said. “There’s not anything that these guys can’t overcome when we work together.  We didn’t play great at times tonight, but the mentality was always great. That is what you need.  You need players that want to win.  Finals aren’t for playing.  They’re for winning and we did that.”

Both teams were forced to overcome some obstacles prior to kickoff.

It took Miami FC 2 some 15 hours to travel from south Florida to New Jersey. The team’s flight from Miami to LaGuardia Airport was cancelled and the team was forced to take the long way to New Jersey through Pittsburgh, which included a four-hour layover.

FC Motown was missing three regulars who had seen playing time — Emerson Lawrence, Walter Calderon an Andreas Chronis. Those three players already had made commitments for this weekend and could not get out of them as the depth of head coach Sacir Hot’s bench was depleted more thanm he would have liked.

As it turned out, a pair of former Red Bulls — Jonny Steele and Dilly Duka — scored in an entertaining first half.

The host side tried to take advantage of long ball and its speed while the visitors attempted to score off set pieces.

In fact, Miami FC 2 drew first blood in the 33rd minute off a Dylan Mares corner kick. The ball went to Steele at the top of the penalty arc and the midfielder fired a strike past Danso for a 1-0 lead.

It did not take long for FC Motown to equalize, negating Miami FC 2’s momentum.  Daniel Cordeiro intercepted a pass and fed an onrushing Duka, who sped into the box and placed the ball past keeper Daniel Vega in the 35th minute and a 1-1 deadlock.

FC Motown had the first two real scoring opportunities only four minutes apart in the opening half.

First, Duka drilled a shot to the near post that goalkeeper Daniel Vega managed to block and keep FC Motown off the scoreboard in the 19th minute.

Four minutes later, Chris Katona, off a long ball from the back, sent a shot that Vega saved.

FC Motown had yet another dangerous chance in the 27th minute. This time Duka broke past Ariel Martinez and Sean McFarlane on the left flank and crossed the ball to the far side to Maxi Garcia, whose half-volley was blocked. The ball came to David Nigro, but last week’s semifinal hero, powered his attempt over the crossbar.