Three semifinal goals in the series from Brian Shriver enabled the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to defeat the Puerto Rico Islanders 5-2 on aggregate Saturday, Oct. 15, at Lockhart Stadium to move on to their first NASL Championship series.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” said head coach Daryl Shore. “They came out with a lot of energy and weathered the storm early in the game.”
Shriver scored his tenth and eleventh goals of the season, and his fifth of the playoffs. In the 19th minute, Walter Restrepo provided the assist on Shriver’s goal. After a build-up of play, Restrepo chipped the Islanders’ back line as Shriver ran through onside. He chested the ball onto his left foot and finished far post.
In the 56th minute, the Islanders were awarded with a corner. The resulting set-piece fell into the box, and a scrum ensued. As the dust cleared, Puerto Rico winger David Foley volleyed home the ball to tie it 1-1.
Within three minutes, the Strikers were on the counter attack. Strikers midfielder Pecka got control of the ball and started the attack. Pecka fed Shriver through again. Shriver ran down the left, cut onto his right foot, and finished the ball far post for his eleventh of the season.
“The old saying is speed kills. Brian has been in great form the last part of the season and the entire playoffs. He was on the end of two great goals and he has been a trooper,” said Shore.
Shriver also had a chance to finish with his first hat-trick of the season. Strikers captain Abe Thompson chipped the defensive line and sent him through. Shriver tried chipping goalkeeper Ray Burse, but the shot went wide.
The Islanders tried late, but Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser stepped up. Following a stray back pass, Jonathan Fana was through on goal, but Glaeser stopped the point blank shot.
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are now in the NASL Championship Series for the first time in team history.
“It feels great to be back. We’re just trying to bring a championship to this area,” said Shore. “
With NSC Minnesota beating the Carolina RailHawks in penalties 5-3, the first leg will be in Minnesota on Oct. 22 at 8:30p.m. The home leg for the Strikers will be on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 7:30 p.m. at Lockhart Stadium.
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