Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - Forward Madison FC fought back from a two-goal second half deficit to draw 2-2 with Fort Lauderdale CF on Wednesday afternoon at Inter Miami CF Stadium.
The first big chance of the match fell Forward Madison's way after 15 minutes. Paulo Jr. sprinted with the ball down the left flank, curling his effort just wide of the far post from a tight angle. Moments later, Don Smart wriggled free on the edge of the area and narrowly missed a shot of his own as Madison continued to dial up the pressure in the early stages.
The hosts grew into the game as the half wore on, and Ricky Lopez-Espin nearly gave Fort Lauderdale the lead on 33 minutes. A clever through ball from Edison Azcona put Lopez-Espin in behind the Madison defense, but he was denied by a fine near-post save from Flamingos' goalkeeper Chris Brady.
Fort Lauderdale would go on to break the deadlock seven minutes prior to halftime. A low cross into the box wasn't parried out of danger, and the ball fell to Eduardo Sosa who was following up the play and smashed it in.
The home side doubled its lead on 67 minutes through Dairon Reyes' first goal for the club. Azcona did well to create space and draw the attention of Madison's defenders before playing the ball to a wide-open Reyes, who made no mistake with the finish to put Fort Lauderdale 2-0 in front.
It took just six minutes for Madison to pull itself back into the game. Like Sosa in the first half, Paulo Jr. found himself in the right place after a mishandled cross, and his shot ricocheted off a few limbs before trickling into the net.
FMFC then found an equalizer to compete its comeback in the 85th minute, when Christian Diaz headed a rebound into the net. Madison defender Connor Tobin was sent off for a late challenge on the edge of the area, but there wasn't enough time for Fort Lauderdale to make the advantage count and the match ended 2-2.
The draw moves Madison to six points behind the Richmond Kickers with three matches remaining in the race for second place. Every game from here on out is a must-win for the Flamingos, and next up is a tough road trip to Chattanooga to take on Red Wolves SC at the weekend.
Fort Lauderdale is already eliminated from postseason contention, and wraps up its inaugural season next week at Union Omaha.
Fort Lauderdale CF: October 24 v. Union Omaha (A)
Forward Madison FC: October 17 v. Chattanooga Red Wolves SC (A)