Strikers New Coach Caio Zanardi Faces Immediate Challenge

Fort Lauderdale will take on some of the world's best in Zanardi's first test as Strikers coach in the Florida Cup
Jack Bell (@JackBell} | Dec 9, 2015

Caio Zanardi became the general manager of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in July. Last week he became the team’s coach. By the time the New Year rolls around the Brazilian will be jumping right into the action.

On Jan. 4 in South Florida, the Strikers will begin preseason in preparation in the second Florida Cup, which features some world-class competition.

“We have this big, big tournament, playing Schalke 04 and then Santa Fe,” Zanardi told “This is a great moment for the club, a great moment for our staff, a great moment for our players, and we need to enjoy this moment. We don’t know when we will play these teams again. We need to enjoy it and to prepare the team. But we have only five days to prepare the team.”

The Strikers’ 2015 season was extended into November before the club lost to the New York Cosmos, the eventual league champions, in The Championship Semifinals on Nov. 7. Since then, Zanardi replaced Günter Kronsteiner as the club’s coach and Fort Lauderdale was unable to re-sign Stefano Pinho. The young striker from Brazil led the NASL with 16 goals last season, winning the Golden Boot award, plus the Golden Ball as the league’s most valuable player, and a spot on the Best XI squad.

The second edition of the Florida Cup brings together two clubs from Germany (Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen) while the Bundesliga is on its annual six-week winter break; four teams from Brazil (Corinthians, Fluminense, Atlético Mineiro, and Internacional); and one each from Ukraine (Shakhtar Donetsk) and Colombia (Santa Fe). The tournament, Jan. 10-20, will be played at three locations: the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. The winner will be the club with the most points after its two matches. The first tiebreaker will be goal differential, followed by goals scored.

After last week’s games in Germany, Schalke is in sixth place and Leverkusen is in eighth. Brazil’s Serie A season concluded last week, with Corinthians finishing first, Atlético second, Internacional fifth and Fluminense 13th. In Colombia, Santa Fe was eliminated last week in the quarterfinals of the Clausura playoffs. In Ukraine, Shakhtar is in first place (on goal differential) as the Premier League breaks for the winter, returning to play in March.

“These are not easy teams were are going to be playing,” Zanardi said. “We will gain a lot of experience from these matches.”

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