Fort Lauderdale Strikers History

         
1963 - 1976

The origin of the franchise that became the Fort Lauderdale Strikers can be traced back to 1963 as an amateur team known as the Washington Britannica. In 1967, the Britannica became the Darts and joined the long-established but small American Soccer League. The Washington Darts won two consecutive ASL titles in 1968 and 1969 before jumping to the fledgling North American Soccer League in 1970. In their first year in the league, the Darts won the Southern Division title before losing to fellow ASL ex-patriots Rochester Lancers for the NASL crown.

In 1972, the Darts found themselves headed for a warmer climate. The move didn't improve their position in the standings, however, as the new Miami Gatos finished at the bottom of the league. The next season produced a new name, the Toros, a playoff berth and the league MVP award for Warren Archibald. The team improved by only one win in 1974, but Coach of the Year John Young and the Toros earned a place in the championship game versus the Los Angeles Aztecs. Miami followed up their NASL title near-miss with their best record (14-8) since moving from Washington.

But after a disappointing season in 1976, things were about to change.

    GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
1967

Washington Darts

15 7 2 6 28 26 -2 16 3rd, ASL First Division
1968

Washington Darts

11 9 1 1 33 5 +28 19 ASL Champion
1969 Washington Darts 20 14 5 1 46 11 +35 33 ASL Champion
1970 Washington Darts 24 14 4 6 52 29 +23 137 1st, NASL Southern Division
1971 Washington Darts 24 8 10 6 36 34 +2 111 3rd, NASL Southern Division
1972 Miami Gatos 14 3 3 8 17 32 -15 44 4th, NASL Southern Division
1973 Miami Toros 19 8 6 5 26 21 +5 88 3rd, NASL Eastern Division
1974 Miami Toros 20 9 6 5 38 24 +14 107 1st, NASL Eastern Division
1975 Miami Toros 22 14 0 8 47 30 +17 123 2nd, NASL Eastern Division
1976 Miami Toros 24 6 0 18 29 58 -29 63 5th, NASL Atlantic Conference Eastern Division
  Total 193 92 37 64 352 270 +78    


1977
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GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
26 19 0 7 49 29 +20 161 1st, NASL Atlantic Conference Eastern Division

In the spring of 1977, the Miami Toros, now known as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, moved north to play in a small 8,000-seat municipal stadium in Broward County. Only 6,213 fans showed up for the opening game victory over the St. Louis Stars at Lockhart Stadium, but the later success of the Strikers led to an expansion of Lockhart Stadium to 11,000. The character of the predominantly English squad created "Striker Likers" out of the locals and turned Fort Lauderdale into one of the better soccer towns in the country.

The 1977 Strikers, which included English goalkeeping legend Gordon Banks and fellow Brits Ray Hudson, David Irving, David Chadwick and Maurice Whittle, were skippered by flamboyant dean of NASL coaches Ron Newman who had guided the Los Angeles Skyhawks to an ASL title a year earlier. Fort Lauderdale surprised the league by finishing with the best record (19-7) and winning the Eastern Division of the American Conference over established powers New York Cosmos and Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Strikers-Rowdies rivalry quickly became one of the most entertaining and fiercely contested in the league, by the teams and fans alike.

Although the lads came out on the losing end in the playoffs, they were part of American soccer history. The Strikers and the Cosmos played a playoff game before a crowd of 77,691 at Giants Stadium. It was the largest crowd ever to attend a soccer game in the U.S. and was a sign of good things to come for the Strikers and the league.



1978
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GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
30 16 0 14 50 59 -9 143 3rd, NASL Atlantic Conference Eastern Division

Further expansion of Lockhart Stadium to 15,000 seats in the off-season was needed to accommodate the growing numbers of Striker Likers. The first half of the 1978 campaign did not go well as the Strikers started off 0-3 and sported an 8-10 record heading into their home game versus the mighty New York Cosmos. The boys needed an offensive spark so the club pulled off a big trade the day before the match . In exchange for George Dewsnip, Andy Roland and a #1 draft pick in 1980, Irish legend George Best was acquired from the Los Angeles Aztecs. Georgie paid immediate dividends for his new side as he scored two goals against the Cosmos. The Strikers went 8-4 to finish the regular season, but could not reproduce the division championship of the previous season.

Yet while they finished third in the Eastern Division, Fort Lauderdale rolled through the playoffs. After dispatching division champions New England and Detroit, the Strikers came within a game of the league championship game. The team that stood between Fort Lauderdale and a trip to the Soccer Bowl was the hated Tampa Bay Rowdies. A 1-0 win in a deciding mini-game over their cross-state rivals sent the Rowdies to the title game against the defending champion New York Cosmos at Giants Stadium.



1979
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GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
30 17 0 13 75 65 +10 165 2nd, NASL Atlantic Conference Eastern Division

With the new season came an international flavor. Gordon Banks left at the end of the 1978 season, replaced by United States national team goalkeeper Arnie Mausser. The offense was improved by the addition of two international superstars. German World Cup legend Gerd Müller came to South Florida after many successful seasons with Bayern Munich and Peruvian star Teofilo Cubillas was acquired from Alianza-Lima. Many more balls found their way to the back of the net as goal production soared from 1.67 goal per game in 1978 to 2.5 in 1979. Despite the offensive fire power and an improved 17-13 record, the new Strikers found themselves in a familiar position, behind the Rowdies in the division standings.

After being ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the Chicago Sting, Coach Newman was fired. With the sacking of a fan favorite coach, the end of an era, however brief, had come. Next season would be strikingly different, in more ways than one. Dutchman Cor van der Hart would coach the 1980 season, but Ron Newman would once again impact the Strikers' future.



1980
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GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
32 18 0 14 61 55 +6 163 2nd, NASL Atlantic Conference Eastern Division

Cor van der Hart was hired to coach the Strikers. Along with a new Dutch coach came several players from Holland, the most important of which was top Dutch goalkeeper Jan van Beveren from PSV Eindhoven. It was an up and down season on the field and a trying one off the field as several off-the-field controversies between the players and coaching staff hung over the club. Even with van Beveren in the nets and Ray Hudson, Gerd "Der Bomber" Müller and "Nene" Cubillas scoring goals, the Strikers finished yet again behind their cross-state rivals in the American Conference Eastern Division. But for the Strikers, the 18-14 regular season was just the beginning.

The Strikers had a rough voyage through the American Conference playoffs. After winning the first game on the road against the California Surf, they came home to lose the second game of their first round matchup. It took an eleven round shootout victory after a scoreless minigame for the Strikers to advance to the next round against the Edmonton Drillers. The second round scenario was the same. A win on the road and loss at home forced another minigame at Lockhart Stadium. With a pair of Cubillas goals, Fort Lauderdale was through to the conference finals against the San Diego Sockers and former coach Ron Newman. A third road win was followed by third home loss, but minigame goals by Ray Hudson and Nene Cubillas gave the Strikers a berth in Soccer Bowl 80 versus the mighty New York Cosmos. Although the Cosmos rolled to a 3-0 victory, the season was an unqualified success, drawing an average of 14,781 fans per game, including playoffs, the highest in the club's seven year stay in Fort Lauderdale.



1981
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GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
32 18 0 14 54 46 +8 144 2nd, NASL Southern Division

More changes came in the 1981 season. Eckhard Krautzun was chosen to replace Cor van der Hart, who was forced out as a result of the club's internal troubles of the previous summer. Gone were one year addition Francisco Marinho and original Striker David Irving. Added were Thomas Rongen and Canadian star Branko Segota. The Strikers once again posted an 18-14 mark, finishing second behind Atlanta in the NASL's Southern Division. Teofilo Cubillas and Jan van Beveren were named to the NASL All-Star team, the only time two Strikers were so honored in the same season.

Branko Segota followed a lackluster regular season with a stellar playoff performance, scoring eleven goals in six games as Fort Lauderdale breezed past Calgary and Minnesota without a loss in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Turnabout was fair play, however, as New York clobbered the Strikers in a two game sweep of the league semifinals.



1982
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GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
32 18 0 14 64 74 -10 163 1st, NASL Southern Division

Gerd Müller retired at the end of the '81 season, Atlanta Chiefs star Brian Kidd joined the club and the Strikers were picked by most to finish behind the Rowdies in the Southern Division. However, it was the Tulsa Roughnecks who gave Fort Lauderdale a race for the division crown. This time, a quick start and a third straight 18-14 record was good enough earn the boys their second division title in six years.

A three-game victory over the Montreal Manic in the first round of the playoffs led to a semifinal matchup with the Seattle Sounders. A 2-0 road win brought the series to Lockhart with the Strikers needing one win to advance to Soccer Bowl 82. With a one goal lead and only forty-three seconds to play, it seemed that they would return to the title match. It was not to be. The Sounders scored and eventually won the game in overtime. A return trip to Seattle and another overtime loss put an end to the dream. It also put an end to Coach Krautzun's tenure as coach.



1983
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GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
30 14 0 16 60 63 -3 136 2nd, NASL Southern Division

A familiar face returned to the South Florida soccer scene as original Striker David Chadwick returned to become the fourth head coach in seven years. It was a move that was hoped to generate a return to past glory. Quite the opposite was the case. The Strikers suffered through falling attendance and their first (and only) losing season. Yet, even with a less than impressive 14-16 record, Fort Lauderdale still made the playoffs. The Strikers did achieve one goal that they had failed to accomplish in their previous six season, a season sweep of the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

There was one club, however, that the Strikers could not defeat in 1983. The Tulsa Roughnecks defeated Fort Lauderdale in all four regular season matches. Unfortunately for the Strikers, the Roughnecks were their first round playoff opponents. The post-season played out just as the regular season had and they lost both matches to eventual league champs.

On the morning of the first day of December, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported the sad news.  The headline read "Strikers pull up stakes; Minnesota is new home." The Robbie family had made the decision to relocate the team to Minneapolis for the 1984 season. The decision was made that to succeed in the league, the club had to play both the outdoor and indoor game. A lack of a quality indoor soccer facility in South Florida was cited as the reason for the move, although lagging attendance did not help matters.



Indoor

  GP W D L GF GA +/- GB Finish
1979-80 12 3 0 9 58 65 -7 7 4th, NASL Eastern Division
1980-81 18 1 0 17 58 59 -1  12 4th, NASL Eastern Division

As successful as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers franchise was playing outdoors under the Florida sun, they were disappointingly anemic playing the indoor game. In their two seasons on the fake plastic grass, the club won only four of thirty games.


Epilogue

Minnesota Strikers (NASL 1984; MISL 1984-1988)

    

The Strikers would play only one season of outdoor in Minnesota. The magic they had in Fort Lauderdale did not make the trip north. The league finally folded after the summer of 1984.

    GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
1984

Minnesota Strikers

24 14 0 10 40 44 -4 115 3rd NASL Western Division

Ironically, despite moving to be able to play both outdoor and indoor soccer in the NASL, the Minnesota Strikers never played an NASL indoor season. After the league folded, the Strikers, along with former NASL franchises Chicago Sting, New York Cosmos and San Diego Sockers, moved to the Major Indoor Soccer League. The club was more successful playing indoor in the MISL than the NASL, making three playoff appearances in four seasons, winning a division title in 1987-88 and coming within one game of winning the league championship series in 1985-86.

    GP W D L GF GA +/- GB Finish
1984-85

Minnesota Strikers

48 24 0 24 224 226 -2 8 4th MISL Eastern Division
1985-86

Minnesota Strikers

48 26 0 22 232 242 -10 1 2nd MISL Eastern Division
1986-87

Minnesota Strikers

52 26 0 26 205 198 +7 8 4th MISL Eastern Division
1987-88

Minnesota Strikers

56 31 0 25 274 252 +20 - 1st MISL Eastern Division
 

Total

204 107 0 97 935 918      

Fort Lauderdale / South Florida Sun (USL 1984-1985)

  

Winning soccer would continue in Broward County the year after the departure of the beloved Strikers, if under less than auspicious circumstances. When the American Soccer League folded in 1984 after fifty years of existence, a new league called the United Soccer League was formed from its remnants to fill the void. One of the new clubs was the Fort Lauderdale Sun. Several former Strikers stayed behind when the team moved to Minneapolis and played for the Sun. With Fort Lauderdale veterans Teofilo Cubillas, Keith Weller, Jim Tietjens and Ernst Jean-Baptiste, the Sun won the USL title over the Houston Dynamos in a three-game championship series. The team changed its name in 1985 to the South Florida Sun, but the league folded after only six games. The Sun had the best record in the league at the time the season was abandoned.

    GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
1984

Ft. Lauderdale Sun

24 15 0 9 53 34 +19 122 USL Champion
1985

South Florida Sun

6 4 0 2 9 8 +1 - season abandoned
 

Total

30 19 0 11 62 42 +20    

Fort Lauderdale Strikers (ASL / APSL 1988-1994)

  

After a two year hiatus, professional soccer returned once again with a familiar name. A new Fort Lauderdale Strikers franchise began its own successful seven year run in a new second division incarnation of an American Soccer League from 1988 to 1994. Striker Likers recognized the names of several Strikers opponents. Fellow league founders included the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Washington Diplomats and the Toronto Blizzard and Seattle Sounders later joined the league.

The reincarnated Strikers won division titles in their first four seasons and the league championship in 1989. After defeating the Boston Bolts for the ASL title, a win over the Western Soccer Alliance champion San Diego Nomads crowned the Strikers the "national professional soccer champions". The ASL merged with the WSA the next year to form the American Professional Soccer League, now known as the A-League. One of the young stars for the APSL Strikers was Tony Meola, who led his Strikers to a division title in 1991 nine years before winning the MLS Cup and earning league MVP honors in 2000 with the Kansas City Wizards.

Fort Lauderdale ties remained strong with several old NASL Strikers. Thomas Rongen was the head coach from 1989 to 1994 and David Irving served as assistant coach in 1988 and 1989. Arnie Mausser was in the nets for the 1989 championship team.

    GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
1988

Ft. Lauderdale Strikers

20 14 0 6 25 21 +4 42 1st, ASL Southern Division
1989 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 20 12 0 8 33 25 +8 35 ASL Champion
1990 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 20 15 0 5 38 22 +16 45 1st, APSL Southern Division
1991 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 21 15 0 6 43 23 +20 117 1st, APSL Southern Division
1992 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 16 7 0 9 25 23 +2 61 4th, APSL
1993 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 24 9 0 15 39 52 -13 94 6th, APSL
1994 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 20 12 0 8 26 26 0 72 5th, APSL
  Total 141 84 0 57 229 192 +37    

Fort Lauderdale Kicks / Strikers / Florida Strikers (USISL 1994-1997)

In the same year that the APSL Strikers were playing their last season, there was an entry in the United States Interregional Soccer Leagues (now United Soccer Leagues) in 1994 called the Fort Lauderdale Kicks. In a touch of irony, this latest entry in the Fort Lauderdale soccer scene used the same name as the Minnesota Kicks, the club that the NASL Strikers followed in Minneapolis. Proving that a good name is hard to drop, after the APSL Strikers folded, the Kicks changed their name in 1995 to become the third incarnation of Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Another name change to Florida Strikers came in 1996, lasting two years before the club folded. The Kicks/Strikers did not achieve the same level of success that their predecessors did, achieving just one winning season in four tries.

    GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
1994 Ft. Lauderdale Kicks 17 5 0 12 25 53 -28 53 6th, USISL Southeast Division
1995 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 20 8 0 12 36 56 -20 78 4th, USISL Pro League Southeast Division
1996 Florida Strikers 14 7 0 7 31 33 -2 19 3rd, USISL Premier League Southern Division
1997 Florida Strikers 18 10 0 8 51 34 +17 30 4th, USISL D3 Pro League South Atlantic Division
  Total 69 30 0 39 143 176 -33    

Miami Fusion (MLS 1998-2001)

  

The MLS Miami Fusion, after failing to come to an agreement to secure the Orange Bowl for their games, played their home matches at good old Lockhart Stadium. The club expanded capacity and refurbished the old girl for the return of first division soccer in South Florida. Under the leadership of former Strikers great Ray Hudson, who moved from the commentator's chair to the coach's bench, the Fusion won the MLS Supporters Shield (for best record in the league) in 2001. Despite their success on the field, the league contracted by dissolving the two Florida clubs, the Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny in the off-season.

There have been a few Strikers players and coaches who have managed MLS clubs. Ron Newman took the helm of the Kansas City Wizards in the league's inaugural season in 1996. When Newman stepped down four games into the 1999 campaign, his interim replacement for three matches was Ken Fogarty. Thomas Rongen coached for six seasons at Tampa Bay, New England and D.C., winning the Supporters Shield with the Mutiny in 1996 and the MLS Cup with United in 1999. He was named head coach of his fourth MLS club when he was tapped to lead the expansion Chivas USA in 2005. After Rongen's stint as head man with the Fusion ended, Ray Hudson replaced him at D.C. United for two seasons.

    GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
1998 Miami Fusion 32 15 0 17 46 68 -22 35 4th, MLS Eastern Conference
1999 Miami Fusion 32 13 0 19 42 59 -17 29 4th, MLS Eastern Conference
2000 Miami Fusion 32 12 5 15 54 56 -2 41 3rd, MLS Eastern Conference
2001 Miami Fusion 26 16 5 5 42 28 +14 53 1st, MLS Eastern Conference
  Total 122 56 10 56 184 211 -27    

Fort Lauderdale Strikers (USL First Division 2006-2009; NASL 2010-)

strikers_new_small.gif (2848 bytes)      nasl_new_small.gif (2356 bytes)

Miami FC came into existence as a United Soccer Leagues First Division expansion franchise in 2006. The big name on the roster that inaugural year was former World Cup star Romário. The Brazilian striker scored 19 goals in 25 matches for the club. Although he left the team for Adelaide United in Australia late in the season, they finished their first year in fifth place and earned a spot in the USL First Division playoffs. That success was fleeting, however, as Miami FC has finished each of its subsequent three seasons in ninth place and out of the post-season. 2010 saw a shakeup in the second tier of American soccer and the club joined with several of its fellow clubs to leave the USL and form a new North American Soccer League. Lawsuits followed and since neither the NASL or USL really had enough clubs to be sanctioned as the second division league, the United States Soccer Federation created the Division 2 Professional League comprised of the two feuding leagues to play in 2010 until a solution to the problem is found.

Success at the ticket office for Miami has lagged behind the rest of the league. For the first several seasons the club called Tropical Park Stadium home. In 2009 the club made a change and split time during the season between FIU Stadium in Miami and Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Over the course of the season, as most Miami-based soccer teams eventually learn, they discovered that attendance for home matches was greater in Broward County than in Miami-Dade. Therefore, in 2010 the move to Lockhart was made full-time. On June 9, 2010, Miami FC issued a press release announcing that they would officially pay homage to the legacy of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in 2011. The club was renamed and the familiar red and yellow hoops returned to the pitch at Lockhart Stadium for the first time since 1983. The rebirth seemed to do the trick with fans as attendance was up over the previous season. It also translated to success on the field as for the first time in the club's short history they finished the season with a winning record and reached the league final. However, like the 1980 squad the newly minted Strikers fell just short of the title.

    GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts. Finish
2006 Miami FC 28 11 6 11 47 44 +3 39 5th, USL First Division
2007 Miami FC 28 9 4 15 31 41 -10 31 9th, USL First Division
2008 Miami FC 30 8 10 12 28 34 -6 34 9th, USL First Division
2009 Miami FC 30 8 5 17 26 52 -26 29 9th, USL First Division
2010 Miami FC 30 7 12 11 37 49 -12 33  4th, USSF Division-2 Pro League NASL Conference
2011 Fort Lauderdale Strikers 28 9 11 8 35 36 -1 38  4th, NASL
  Total 174 52 48 74 204 256 -52