Lightning delayed the start of the Miami FC game two hours Friday night, but that didn’t seem to diminish the enthusiasm of the 10,012 fans at FIU Stadium.
The game against Puerto Rico FC, a team owned by NBA star Carmelo Anthony, was billed as a “BoricuaFest” (Puerto Ricans call themselves Boricuas), and included a pre-game autograph session with boxer Miguel Cotto and a post-game concert with Grammy winner Elvis Crespo, whose song “Suavemente” was a Billboard hit.
Although the night was meant to attract local Puerto Rican fans, Miami FC was a bit too hospitable, allowing a 79th-minute corner kick goal that sealed the 1-0 victory for the visitors and snapped a 10-match winless streak for Puerto Rico FC.
Puerto Rico midfielder Jackie Marrero’s corner kick glanced off the head of Miami forward Pablo Campos and curled past Miami keeper Sebastian Evers and into the net, crushing the home fans. Marrero, one of only three Puerto Ricans on the team, was mobbed by his joyful teammates.
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Miami FC, which is in third place in the league standings and in playoff contention, was heavily favored over last place Puerto Rico (2-6-8).
Puerto Rico nearly took an early lead in the eighth minute, but Miami midfielder Gabriel Farfan made a spectacular clearance at the line.
Farfan, a Californian who played four years in MLS, has made several perfectly-timed clearances since joining the team July 1. He has been a key player on offense and defense. In 14 games he intercepted 47 passes, made 25 clearances and won 62 duels. He also completed 538 passes (85 percent), sent in 34 crosses, and created 15 scoring chances.
Friday night, Farfan had a chance to score in the 18th minute, blasting a shot after receiving a pass from Blake Smith, but Puerto Rico goalkeeper Austin Pack cleared the ball over the crossbar.
Miami midfielder Kwadwo Poku took a shot as the first half ended, but it was saved. The score remained knotted at 0-0 at halftime.
The home team had several scoring opportunities in the second half, the best a powerful blast from Vincenzo Rennella in the 64th minute, but Pack made the save again. After a six-game unbeaten run, Miami FC has dropped two games in a row.
Anthony, who has Puerto Rican roots, did not attend the game, but he has been a lifelong soccer fan.
“My passion for soccer has always been there,” Anthony told ESPN FC when he bought the club.
“I just always kept it to myself and among my circle. Going to games, sneaking into games and just watching and being around the sport over the years. The more time I started spending in Puerto Rico over the past six, seven years I realized that there was kind of a void down there on my island. The island didn’t really have anything that they could kind of call their own, that they could represent not just on the island but from a global standpoint.”
Miami FC is back home Wednesday night against the Ottawa Fury.