Strikers Turning Corner After The Return Of Head Coach Günter Kronsteiner

Fort Lauderdale is unbeaten to start the Fall Season under the Austrian coach
Jack Bell (@JackBell} | Jul 31, 2015

Fort Lauderdale was slow out of the gates in the Spring Season as the club had a five-game winless streak in league play before a final weekend victory. The Strikers, though, may have turned a corner since the start of the Fall. The current run of form has also coincided with the return of head coach Günter Kronsteiner.

After finishing last year as the NASL runner-up after a loss to the San Antonio Scorpions in The Championship, a four-team postseason tournament, the Strikers’ braintrust decided not to retain the team’s popular coach. New ownership (from Brazil) overhauled the roster (with players from Brazil) and a new coaching staff.

Now, Kronsteiner is back, replacing the man (Marcelo Neveleff) who replaced him.

“It’s been, you know, a bit of a roller coaster in the sense that we had a coach last year then all of a sudden a new coach, then he’s back,” Strikers midfielder Manny Gonzalez said. “Soccer is like that, everyday things can change. It changed quickly for me and for most of the guys on the team. It’s a matter of just adjusting as fast as possible.”

And the Strikers have seemed to adjust just fine, thank you very much.

Since the start of the Fall Season with Kronsteiner back on the bench, the Strikers (1W-3D-0L, 6 points) are unbeaten and sit in sixth place in the NASL’s 11-team table. It may be too early to anoint the 61-year-old Austrian as a miracle worker, but the game is all about results and Kronsteiner knows how to get them.

“Unbeaten is good, but I would have liked one or two more wins,” said Kronsteiner, who in the past has worked with the former Red Bulls coach, Hans Backe, and the current coach of Germany’s national team, Joachim Löw. “It’s good that we didn’t lose a game, but now we have some of the big shots coming. We got a win against Tampa Bay, we have Cosmos in front of us, and we know how hard it is. They are not playing well at this point either, I just hope they don’t against us.”

The Strikers, after a big win against intrastate rival Tampa Bay, 3-1, last weekend, face the last-place New York Cosmos (0-2-1, 2) at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y., on Sunday afternoon. After a midweek match at Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale then gets to host the Cosmos on August 8 (the Cosmos, too, play next Wednesday, hosting Minnesota United). For their play in the Coastal Cup match against the Rowdies, Fort Lauderdale’s PC and Frankie Sanfilippo were named to the league’s Team of the Week.

While there is certainly a melding of styles – Brazilian jogo bonito and Kronsteiner’s no-nonsense European approach – there has been little issue in melding them together.

“First of all, we have to make one thing very clear: People don’t understand the level in in the NASL,” he said. “It’s improving every game and in the games we’ve played against MLS teams. For my team, some players have come from different places. In Brazil, they have a different way to play soccer. I’m from Europe and we now try to bring both together. In Brazil, it’s a technical game, in Europe it may be more tactical. Together it is a good and dangerous combination.

“I think it is still in a learning process. I like a lot of discipline on the field. It may not a fun job for everyone, but it’s what I’m expecting, we are professionals. I’m really hard on them and tell them they did not just come to Florida to play. In soccer, you also have to work.”

The recent addition of Gabriel, another Brazilian, to the Strikers’ roster has given Kronsteiner another steady and skillful presence in the midfield. The club’s other Brazilian players, led by PC, Marlon Freitas, and Stefano Pinho needed time to adjust.

“Every coach has good things and bad things, and so do players,” Gonzalez said. "This coach already came with knowing the league after having been here a year and a half. Maybe that helped a little bit. There’s also in the new group of guys, especially the Brazilians. They didn’t know the league, but have now adjusted very well They are a little bit more mature and know this is a hard league to play in.

“We have pretty much a whole new roster from last year, but a few of us who played for Günter last year and know how he works gave the other guys a heads up and I think we’re seeing it in our results. We haven’t lost a league game since he’s come and we’ve adjusted really well.”

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