Top Stories

Strikers, Stars aim for victory in first leg of NASL Championship Series

NSC Minnesota Stars Logo   Ft Lauderdale Stirkers logo



FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – In four meetings during the regular season, the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers went undefeated against NSC Minnesota Stars with a 2-0-2 record and 6-2 goal advantage.

That may have happened in the last few months, but it will seem like long ago to both teams as they attempt to get a win in the first leg of the NASL Championship Series at NSC Stadium in Minnesota on Saturday (8:30pm ET).

"Playing in a final, I don't think you can get overconfident," said Strikers head coach Daryl Shore. "Because the team that you're playing against, obviously, has done well to get to the final also, regardless of what your regular season results are like against them. You can throw all that out the window because it's a whole different season."

The last time the two teams met was in Minnesota back in August, with Ft. Lauderdale coming out on top, 1-0, but much has changed for both clubs since then.

For Minnesota, the team has added some attacking quality in forwards Luke Mulholland and Brian Cvilikas. The Stars also have put together a string of strong performances, not the least of which came in last weekend's dramatic penalty kick victory over the Carolina RailHawks.

The Stars entered the game with a 1-0 lead from the first leg, but Carolina forced extra time after posting a 4-3 victory in the scond leg. After a scoreless overtime, the Stars won the penalty shootout by converting all five penalties.

"I remember once we scored that last penalty kick, I was kind of in awe just brief recap of the game and how things went down," said Minnesota goalkeeper Joe Warren. "Definitely an emotional drain there but quickly replaced with the excitement of making it to the finals."

Ft. Lauderdale's semifinals series wasn't as taxing. The Strikers went on the road and defeated the Puerto Rico Islanders in the first leg, 3-1, before returning to Lockhart Stadium and winning, 2-1, on a pair of goals from forward Brian Shriver.

The Strikers didn't opt to sit back and absorb the pressure in the second leg despite their two-goal lead. That will be the team's mentality against Minnesota as they look for a victory rather than a draw in the first leg of the championship series.

"We're going there to win the game," said Shore. "We did this even during the regular season. We tell our team that we're going on the road to but we're still going to try and get a win.

"At the same time, we know that leaving there with a point also plays in our favor because then we come home. It's really about managing the game. However, the mentality has to be that you're going to win the game."

Winning games has been a constant as of late for Ft. Lauderdale, which has lost just once since the start of September (a stretch of eight games).

That run of positive results has come about through a combination of factors, including improved finishing and continued stellar play from goalkeeper Matt Glaeser and his defense.

The Strikers' performances are also something that Stars head coach Manny Lagos has taken notice of.

"They are different, they are better and the reality is we haven't done as well as we'd have liked this year," said Lagos. "We understand that we're playing a team that is really flying on all cylinders and has done really well in the playoffs. We're excited for the challenge and look forward to playing a team that we quite haven't figured out yet."

In attempt to solve the puzzle that is Ft. Lauderdale over the course of two legs, Minnesota is planning on sticking to what its been doing in recent weeks rather than throwing out a new strategy.

Lagos says he is looking at the series as four quarters, and that in-game management will be a factor in how his team handles what unravels in the first leg.

As for his players, they agree that continuing to play the style of soccer they've demonstrated in recent games is the best course of action.

"You look at our match-ups, they were all early-to-mid-season match-ups and I don't think that we were really playing our best soccer then," said Minnesota captain Kyle Altman of the regular season games against the Strikers. "I think we've found a lineup that works right now.

"You look at (our) starting lineups (from then and now), there's a few similarities but positionally we've changed formations. We've got different guys in different spots. I think we match-up a lot better with them. It's not really about preventing them from doing what they do well, but maybe influencing what we do well and what we've done well over the past month on them."

Ft. Lauderdale is hoping that's not the case, as it attempts to set itself up to become the first professional team since the 1997 Florida Marlins to win a championship game in South Florida.

The Strikers realize how special an opportunity that is, and they're hoping to capitalize on the moment by getting off to a winning start against the Stars on Saturday.

"This area is thriving for a champion and us being the only professional soccer team in this area it would be great to go up to Minnesota and get a good result," said Shore. "Then also know that we're coming home for the final leg and have a chance to win a championship, not only for the city of Ft. Lauderdale, but for the South Florida area – Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach County.

"It's kind of special because you always hear about (how) this is a weirds sports market but it's still a market where people are sports crazy and they're thriving for a champion. We feel honored that we have a chance to hopefully bring this area a championship."



    It looks like the Fort Lauderdale AARP reps were cranky tonight and rather than playing decided to foul the hell out of the Minnesotans.

  2. I really think that this is gonna be a good final. I like MN to win at home 2-1. I think MN will win the whole thing 3-2 on aggregate.

  3. Really? You’re not tired of ignorant cliche Minnesota jokes? Act like you know south florida is full of movie stars, models and mostly young people. The old people live in Boca and Ft. Meyers. Strikers games are full of young people who are rowdy and energetic and bang on drums all match. Enjoy the snow while it’s 70 and sunny all winter here.

  4. Has anyone checked to see if this game conflicts with Matlock? Or does Matlock air earlier?
    If any of the traveling Ft. Lauderdale supporters (as if there were any) need recommendations for senior discounts, let us know. I know a great Perkins nearby.

  5. It would be really great for Ft. Lauderdale’s AARP supporters to get a trophy before they all die.

    Minnesota til I die.


Leave a Comment