The Fort Lauderdale Strikers kickoff their quest to win the NASL Championship against FC Edmonton at Lockhart Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 1, at 7:30p.m. Following a fourth place finish in the NASL regular season, the Strikers were awarded home field advantage for the single quarterfinal round game against fifth-place Edmonton.
“I think everyone’s excited to be in the playoffs,” said Strikers head coach Daryl Shore. “I don’t think anyone is feeling any pressure, obviously there is going to be some nerves. You can’t say this is just another game, because it’s not, it’s a big game. I think we’ve got the right mix of guys going into tomorrow night’s game to pull out a result.”
During the regular season the Fort Lauderdale Strikers were 2-1-1 against FC Edmonton, with both a win and a loss at Lockhart Stadium. Fort Lauderdale is undefeated in the previous three meetings having won two and tied once, scoring six goals in the process. The last time the teams met, Strikers co-leading scorer Brian Shriver scored the game-winning goal in the final minute of play to guarantee Fort Lauderdale a spot in the playoffs. The Strikers have not lost to FC Edmonton since the opening game of the season.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game, and we have to be sharp on all their counter attacks as well as set plays, because they’re dangerous on both,” said Shore.
The victory in Edmonton was the third win in a row for the Strikers, having followed a pair of shutout wins over Montreal and Carolina in the games prior. The good run of form continued with a dramatic 1-1 draw at home to Atlanta, extending the unbeaten-streak to four games. The point from the draw was enough for Fort Lauderdale to secure home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’ve been waiting all season for this weekend to come,” said Strikers captain Abe Thompson. “We’ve played each other four times now, we’re familiar with each other. We’re just looking forward to tomorrow’s match.”
The Strikers will be without defender Cristian Arrieta, who is suspended for the match after being sent off in the last match against FC Tampa Bay. Players in danger of suspension through yellow card accumulation will have a fresh start in the playoffs with all players starting with zero cards.
FC Edmonton’s last game was a defeat to the Montreal Impact 2-0 on September 17th. The loss locked them into a fifth place finish, and a guarantee of playoff action in their first year of existence. Shaun Saiko has been Edmonton’s main attacking threat this season, with nine goals and five assists over the course of the season.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of post season games when I was with the (Chicago) Fire and for me it’s a mentality that you have to take care of the little things,” said Shore. “The playoffs are a whole different ballgame.”
A victory for the Strikers would mean advancing to the semifinal round of the NASL Playoffs, a two game series against either the Carolina RailHawks or the Puerto Rico Islanders. A loss would eliminate the Strikers from further playoff action. Should the score remain tied at the end of the match, the game will progress to a 30-minute extra time period. A penalty shootout will determine the winner if the score remains even after added time.
Last Time Out
Fort Lauderdale fell 2-0 away to FC Tampa Bay on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium. The loss meant the Strikers would finish fourth in the NASL standings and face FC Edmonton at home in the first round of the playoffs.
The Strikers were forced to play a man down after Cristian Arrieta was sent off for a challenge on FC Tampa Bay’s Tsuyoshi Yoshitake early in the second half. Tampa Bay broke the deadlock when midfielder Shane Hill delivered a ball over the Strikers defense to Keith Savage, who stroked the ball past Matt Glaeser in goal. Matt Clare ensured the win for Tampa Bay with a goal in stoppage time. The loss means FC Tampa Bay are the only team the Strikers did not beat this season.
2011 STAT LEADERS
Appearances: Martyn Lancaster (27)
Starts: Martyn Lancaster (26)
Minutes: Martyn Lancaster (2,243)
Goals: Brian Shriver, Eduardo Coudet (6)
Assists: Eduardo Coudet (4)
Shots: Brian Shriver (50)
Yellow cards: Eduardo Coudet (7)
Red cards: Cristian Arrieta (2)
Saves: Matt Glaeser (75)
With a victory, the Strikers would play either the Carolina Railhawks on Sunday, Oct. 9, at 7:30 at Lockhart Stadium or they would travel to Puerto Rico to face the Islanders on Saturday, Oct. 8.