Monday, June 6, 2011

Strikers Win First Home Match

On Saturday the Fort Lauderdale Strikers earned their first home victory with a 3 - 2 upset of the Puerto Rico Islanders, the defending league chanmpions from last season's strange USL-NASL combined league.  The Strikers struck first in the 11th minute on a free kick from 25 yards out, taken by 'Chaco' Coudet, who sent the ball into the box where it was volleyed by Jean Philippe Peguero.  Islanders Keeper Ray Burse made the save but the Strikers Abe Thompson was johnny-on-the-spot, putting away the rebound for the first goal of the match.

Then, in the 37th minute, Islanders captain Noah Delgado received a straight red card for a rough tackle on Strikers midfielder Toni Stahl, leaving the Islanders a man down. Forced to play shorthanded, the Islanders came out on the attack for the second half, and to their credit they got the equalizer in the 63rd minute, with Nick Adderly scoring off a rebound from a diving fingertip save by Strikers Keeper Matt Glaeser.  Then, astonishingly, the Islanders took the lead from another short-handed goal in the 66th minute by substitute Jonathan FaƱa, who put away a nice cross from winger David Foley.  To everyone's amazement, at this point the Islanders were winning a short-handed match on the road, and displaying championship form.

But there was too much time remaining for the Islanders to bury their lead.  In the 80th minute, Chaco Coudet sent a free kick into the box, where former Islanders player Cristian Arrieta headed home the goal to make the score 2-2; and then in the 88th minute, with time running out, David Santamaria dribbled into the Islanders defense and laid off the ball to Jean Phillipe Peguero, who got past the Keeper and finished the goal with a left-footed shot, bringing the score to 3-2 for the Strikers first home win.

A home win against a defending champion is always a good thing, but the Strikers allowed a short-handed team to come from behind and take the lead, forcing the last-minute heroics of Arrieta and Peguero to save the team.  Commenting on the game after full-time, Strikers Coach Daryl Shore said, "After going into halftime up a goal, we didn’t do the things we needed to do to keep the lead. However, we showed great composure coming from behind and winning the game. The crowd was outstanding and contributed to our comeback."

Composure against a short-handed side seems to me to be a basic requirement of professional football.  I'm quite pleased that the Strikers won this match; but the next time we are up one man on the opposing team, I'd sure like to see the Strikers put them away and not let them back into the match.  The Strikers next game is at home on Saturday, June 11th at 7:30 pm against the NSC Minnesota Stars.