Goals by defender Rafael Alves and forward Darnell King gave the host Fort Lauderdale Strikers a 2-0 victory over the newest club Ottawa Fury FC in the opening match of the 2014 NASL season in front of 3,105 fans at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Saturday evening.
The game started at a fast pace in the first-ever meeting between the two sides. Neither side was too familiar with their opponent but both teams looked to attack the opposition and get on the board first.
It took Alves just 13 minutes to score the first goal of the 2014 NASL season. The big Brazilian found himself unmarked at the back post on midfielder Mark Anderson’s driven low freekick. He slid home for his first goal for the Strikers in 15 appearances.
Strikers goalkeeper Oka Nikolov was very active in his Strikers debut. The German-born goalkeeper was one of the main acquisitions by the Strikers in the 2014 offseason and finished his first match with the Strikers with four key saves.
Chris Nurse went close to doubling the Strikers’ lead with a header at the end of the first half. His effort went just wide of the post. Richie Ryan had a chance to level the score on the stroke of halftime but was denied by Nikolov.
Alves was forced off with an injury at the halftime interval. Justin Chavez moved back into defense and substitute Manny Gonzalez stepped into midfield. The Strikers came out of the dressing rooms the stronger side and pressed for a second goal.
The insurance goal finally came in the 80th minute on a Strikers counter attack through King. Ottawa were exposed at the back after throwing numbers forward and a smart through ball from Marius Ebbers found King surging down the right.
The right back attempted to unselfishly play a square ball to Anderson inside the box, but the low cross was cut out by Fury FC goalkeeper Devala Gorrick. King pounced on the loose ball and sent a vicious effort into the back of the net.
“First of all its great when you win that is most important as it is never easy as we didn’t really know where we were after the preseason so we are very happy with this ‘W,’” said Raoul Voss, Strikers assistant coach. “The way we played there is some room for improvement that is for sure, especially in the midfield we need to connect a little better. The first game is never easy so we are happy with the win now and we can build up from there.”