The Fort Lauderdale Strikers defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks by a score of 6-2 in front of 4,091 fans at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The game marked the first time in team history the Strikers scored six goals in a regular season match.
Defender Iván Guerrero was the star of the show after assisting on four of the Strikers goals. Yaikel Pérez and Bradlee Baladez scored two goals apiece while Martin Nuñez and Carlos Salazar each chipped in with one.
“It was an interesting game to watch and everything was exciting,” said Strikers coach Gunter Kronsteiner. “I think the other team underestimated us and we were motivated. Nobody can come to Fort Lauderdale and say they can beat this team easily.”
The first goal of the game came in the 21st minute of the match from Nuñez. After playing a give-and-go with Guerrero, the diminutive playmaker continued his run into the box to head the return cross past a helpless Eric Ati in the Silverbacks goal for his third goal in three games.
Ruben Luna scored the equalizer in the 34th minute of the match after capitalizing on a defensive error. Milton Blanco slipped his teammate through behind the napping Strikers defense for Luna to power a shot past Richard Sánchez from close range.
Yaikel Pérez restored the host’s lead with a header shortly before halftime. The Cuban forward rose highest to meet Guerrero’s cross and power the ball into the roof of the net.
The Strikers went into the halftime break with a 2-1 lead.
The turning point in the match came early in the second half when Silverbacks defender Mike Randolph was shown a red card after taking down Paulo Jr. in the box. Carlos Salazar buried the ensuing penalty kick to double the Strikers lead.
Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes responded by emptying his substitutes bench and using all the available substitutions. The Strikers responded by scoring more goals.
Guerrero made it a hat-trick of assists when Pérez grabbed his second goal of the match shortly after the hour mark. Another pinpoint cross from the left was met by the head of Pérez at the near post, who was substituted to an ovation after the goal.
His replacement Bradlee Baladez wasted no time getting into the act, scoring two goals in a cameo appearance.
Baladez lobbed the keeper from outside the box for his first of the night before sweeping a counter-attacking move from the left across the keeper for his brace.
The scoreline could have been even larger as both sides had wasted opportunities.
Earlier in the match Pérez dazzled fans with an overhead kick in the 19th minute. Walter Restrepo tried something similar when the Strikers were up 5-1.
Richard Sánchez was largely untested but was forced to came up with a trademark save to deny Atlanta from going ahead. Blanco hammered a volley from the top of the box that was destined for the bottom right corner but for the left hand of Sánchez that parried the effort wide.
The Silverbacks scored a penalty kick late in the second half but it was nothing more than a consolation.
“We gave up a PK and then we were short handed and that put us behind the eight ball and then we had to go chasing the game,” said Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes. “I’m disappointed about a lot more things than the game.
“If my team can’t bounce back then they don’t deserve to be in the final and I know what I need to turn things around.”
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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|