Jaime Chavez’s first shot clanked off the crossbar. His second shot, a beautiful header off a textbook cross from new teammate Jonny Steele, was called offside. Finally, in the second minute of stoppage time, Chavez got one to count.
That was all Miami FC needed to secure a 1-0 victory over Jacksonville Armada on Saturday night at FIU Stadium, a game billed as Pride Night with half the ticket proceeds going to victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. Miami played up a man for 80-plus minutes.
Despite the win, coach Alessandro Nesta was not celebrating.
“We have to play much better,’’ Nesta said. “They accepted playing low speed, and this I don’t like. They were almost dead, and we have to kill them. We played 80 minutes same speed with the opponent, and this is no good. I am happy for the three points, but I don’t like this kind of game.
“When we have the opportunity to kill the opponent, we have to kill them. Not just, ‘OK, finish 0-0, next.’ No next. Today. More passion. More intensity. Much more.”
Chavez’s goal was a huge relief for the 3,627 Miami fans because two apparent goals were nullified by offsides flags — following two goals being erased by offside calls in a 2-1 loss to the Armada earlier this season.
In the 20th minute, Miami fans erupted with joy when Chavez hit the crossbar and Dario Cvitanich headed the rebound into the back of the net. But it was immediately erased as both players were called offside.
“It was deflected from a defender, landed at my feet, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m wide open with a chance to score the winning goal,’ and I had it,” Chavez said.
Miami had been up a man since the 11th minute after Armada defender Beto Navarro was ejected with a red card. But Jacksonville clamped down on defense and was able to stave off several Miami scoring chances the rest of the first half.
The teams, both coached by former World Cup players — Miami’s Nesta played for Italy and Jacksonville’s Tony Meola for the U.S. — went into intermission knotted at 0-0.
Pablo Campos, who is 6-3, replaced the 5-9 Cvitanich in the second half, but the home team was unable to benefit from the height advantage. Campos had a close-range shot in the 68th minute that sailed high. Midfielder Steele, a Northern Ireland native acquired from the Ottawa Fury on Thursday, made his debut for Miami and was active all over the field.
“I think we made it harder for us than it should have been,” Steele said. “We have to move the ball quicker and create more chances. When teams go down to that level, 10 men, and pack in, you have to move the ball and open them up. It’s a win, step in the right direction.”
Steele said he’s been impressed with the team in his first few days.
“The organization has been nothing but top class since I’ve been here,” he said. “The quality of training is as good as I’ve seen anywhere, it’s just about getting a mentality of winning. I played with Thierry Henry, and he is exactly the same as what I’ve seen from Nesta. We’d be up [2-0] at halftime and he’d say we weren’t playing well. It’s a mind frame I respect. [Nesta] wasn’t happy with how we played. He’s a winner, his career speaks for itself, and it’s a pleasure to play under him.”
Miami, now 1-1-1 in the fall season, plays at Carolina on Friday, then is back home July 30 against Indy Eleven.