The Fort Lauderdale Strikers defeated in-state rivals Tampa Bay Rowdies by a score of 2-1 in a Florida Derby match at Lockhart Stadium in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
A goal on either side of halftime from Martin Nuñez and Bradlee Baladez gave the Strikers maximum points at home in front of a crowd of 3,612 at historic Lockhart.
Nuñez scored the opener in the 22nd minute of the match and Baladez grabbed the eventual winner with crisp strike from inside the 18-yard box in the 86th.
“The first half was the best from this team of the season so far,” said Strikers coach Gunter Kronsteiner. “We were very concentrated and there were a lot of chances we had to defend. Nobody expected that we could beat them.”
“I think we have to change our style when we play them away (next week) because it is always a different challenge.
Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said: “I’m happy with the second half performance but am disappointed with the second goal, which came from a mistake that has been our Achilles’ heel all season.”
It was all one-way traffic in the first half as the Strikers peppered Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo with six shots on goal. The goalkeeper made some fine saves to keep his side in the game.
Restrepo’s goal was breached when Nuñez buried Carlos Salazar’s precision cross from the left. The ball took a slight deflection of Stefan Antonijevic but fell to Nuñez who was waiting at the back post to send the ball over the line.
Paulo Jr. had a chance to double the lead a half-hour into the match after going in alone on Diego Restrepo. The Brazilian telegraphed his shot and the goalkeeper was able to get down to his left to save.
Diego Restrepo produced his best save of the night minutes later to deny Paulo Jr. again. The Strikers forward carved out some space from the top of the box and unleashed a rocket on goal. The Venezuelan-American keeper was equal to the shot, diving to his left with an acrobatic save.
There was nothing Restrepo could do to keep out the Bradlee Baladez game-winner. A skillful dummy by Justin Chavez on a Paulo Jr. through ball opened up space for the on-loan FC Dallas forward to finish past Restrepo to send the home crowd into a rapturous applause.
Strikers goalkeeper Richard Sánchez was largely untested, making just two saves over the course of the match. Carl Cort scored a peach of a goal for the Rowdies to the delight of the traveling Rowdies fans, Ralph’s Mob, but it was merely a consolation for Tampa Bay.
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|New York Cosmos||14||9||4||1||10||31|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||14||5||5||4||3||20|
|Minnesota United FC||14||6||2||6||2||20|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||14||5||3||6||-2||18|
|San Antonio Scorpions||14||3||1||10||-9||10|
|San Antonio Scorpions||12||6||2||4||4||20|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||12||5||3||4||5||18|
|Minnesota United FC||12||4||2||6||-5||14|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||12||2||2||8||-14||8|