Time to check in on the Eleven’s third-ever opponent: the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. So let’s get a preview of the team — club history, team record, all the stuff.
The club is part of a complicated and long-evolving history of soccer in South Florida. The team is another of the founding NASL members, and also has adopted the name of a team from the original NASL. Currently the team is 1-0-1, with a 2-0 home win over Ottawa and a 4-1 away loss to Carolina.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers
The current team was formed in 2006 as Miami FC, originally playing in USL-1. The team moved to Fort Lauderdale in 2009, and were one of the founding members of the NASL. The team took the Strikers name — echoing the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the original NASL — when they began play in the new NASL in 2011.
2006 (USL-1, as Miami FC): 11-6-11/5th; playoffs – quarterfinals; USOC – 2nd round
2007 (USL-1, as Miami FC): 9-4-15/9th; USOC – 1st round
2008 (USL-1, as Miami FC): 8-10-12/9th; USOC – 3rd round
2009 (USL-1, as Miami FC): 8-5-17/9th; USOC – 2nd round
2010 (USSF-D2, as Miami FC): 7-12-11/4th, NASL division; USOC – 3rd round
2011 (NASL): 9-11-8/5th; playoffs – finals (lost to Minnesota); no USOC
2012 (NASL): 9-9-10/5th; playoffs – quarterfinals; USOC – 3rd round
2013 (NASL): 2-2-8/7th (Spring); 5-3-6/5th (Fall); USOC – 3rd round
Fort Lauderdale has typically been a lower-mid team, finishing in the bottom half of the table most seasons. Their best season was probably 2011, when they reached the Soccer Bowl, losing 3-1 to NSC Minnesota Stars. Their 2013 last-place Spring finish was followed by a quietly mediocre Fall season. The most notable game was probably their 6-2 home win over Atlanta — the only game where they scored more than 2 goals. Their -16 goal differential over the whole year was by far the worst in the NASL (San Antonio next-worst at -5).
Despite having a generally-disappointing 2013, the Strikers showed a positive trend over the season, generally credited to the hiring of current head coach Günter Kronsteiner at midseason. He came to Fort Lauderdale from Austria, where he had served in both manager and technical director roles with both Casino Salzburg and FK Austria Vienna.
Kronsteiner used the offseason to bring several new players into Fort Lauderdale, including a pair from the Bundesliga, goalkeeper Oka Nikolov and forward Marius Ebbers. The 39-year-old Nikolov spent 19 years with Eintracht Frankfurt, appearing in 379 matches. 36-year-old Ebbers played in 138 matches over six years with FC St. Pauli, stopping briefly for one game (and two goals) with VfL 93 Hamburg before heading to Florida. Midfielder Chris Nurse is another notable addition. The London-born Guyanese international has played with various NASL teams since 2011, most recently appearing in 21 games for FC Edmonton last year. Nurse gave up a penalty last week for the first Carolina goal, but his spinning finish past Akira Fitzgerald won him the NASL Play of the Week and a spot on the Team of the Week. Returnees Darnell King (midfield) and Justin Chavez (defender) preceeded Nurse with a spot on the Week 1 Team of the Week.
The most notable departure from Fort Lauderdale was probably Colombian Walter Restrepo, possibly the brightest talent on last years’ team. He was traded to San Antonio, apparently for hotel and travel arrangements when the Strikers visit San Antonio on June 7. Despite his skill, he was a headache for management, and had trouble finding playing time after Kronsteiner arrived.
Identity and Home Field
The Strikers are owned by Traffic Sports USA — the same group that owns the Carolina RailHawks. (This carries interesting if unclear implications, but that’s a post for another time.) The “Strikers” name, adopted after Miami FC moved north to Lockhart Stadium, echoes the name of the original NASL team — itself adopted after the Miami Toros moved north into Lockhart. The Strikers’ colors are red and yellow. Their home kit uses a shirt with red and yellow hoops, with black shorts and socks. The away kit, at least as worn last week, has a white shirt with yellow and red hoops (stubborn!) with black shorts and socks.
The Strikers play at Lockhart Stadium, located right off the runways for Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. Built in 1959, it’s unique in that it was also the home of the original Strikers back in the 1970s. The playing surface is natural grass. The stadium can seat 20,450 fans, but average attendance has been in the neighborhood of 4,000, with an average last year of 4,265. The peak was 7,653 for Cosmos’ visit on September 21. The team is looking for a modernization of the stadium, and the current plan appears to be based on a water park that would possibly even run through the stadium. That would be… interesting.
Supporters groups include Flight 19 and the Tri-County Ultras. Both groups have committed to support the Strikers over the new Miami MLS team. The Strikers have a major rivalry (the Florida Derby) with Tampa Bay, dating back to 1977 and the original NASL. The winner of the season series between the two teams is awarded the Coastal Cup — won by Tampa Bay for the last four years.
I’ve been predicting wins every week, which is just maybe a bit optimistic. Still, there’s been a lot of good soccer on offer from the Eleven… something that isn’t quite as evident from the Strikers. The 4-1 loss to Carolina was maybe a bit unlucky for Fort Lauderdale, but their defense in particular looked shaky. Lockhart Stadium isn’t a fortress by any means; the Strikers were 4-4-5 at home last year. So I will yet again predict a win — Strikers 0-2 Eleven. Come on you red and blue!