Tuesday night the Strikers played in the second round of the US Open Cup, taking on the plucky Laredo Heat, who play in the mostly-amateur 4th division USL Premier Development League. The Strikers won, but it wasn’t pretty; it was long however. If you like extended soccer on a Tuesday night, this game was for you. Ultimately, the Strikers edged Laredo and that’s all that matters. The Strikers take on a strong MLS squad FC Dallas here in the FTL at Lockhart in the next round on Tuesday, which promises to be an exciting upset. Come out on Tuesday and support our local boys as Fort Lauderdale gives Dallas the what for. Think of it as 1980 U.S. hockey (Dallas being that dreadful bastion of communism in Texas).
The night got off to a rocky start for your humble narrator, as the security guards would not permit entrance of the official FTLC camera, due to a detachable zoom lens. We’ve had no problems entering with this camera before, and why would the Strikers have a policy against cameras anyway? Perhaps they don’t want us taking pictures of all the hookers? After some whining (on my part) we were allowed to bring in the camera, amateur as it is.
The match started off well enough, with the Strikers dominating the first 15 minutes. It began as a game should begin that features a second division team against a fourth division team, with the Strikers getting a few early chances. But then the doldrums that has enveloped much of the first half of this season set in. Long stretches with nothing much to get excited about. 0-0 at the half.
The second half started off well enough, as the Strikers looked good early and in the 54th minute Mark Anderson took a beautiful extra pass in the box from Tampa native Darnell King and put one into the back of the net. The Strikers faithful let out a sigh of relief.
Then things looked even better after Laredo’s Daniel Barbosa pulled down a streaking Striker and earned a red card around the 65th minute. The crowd was feeling good as surely an undermanned fourth division amateur team could not come back and tie the game. But then in the 83rd minute, as fans started talking about Dallas, a ball bounced dangerously around the goal and somehow Laredo defender Camilo Botero found the net past Striker goalie Matt Glaeser for a game tying goal. Disaster.
From the moment of that goal through the two 15 minute overtime periods, Laredo was playing for the shootout, wasting time at every opportunity. The crowd, apparently unappreciative about missing their standard eight hours of sleep, started getting testy. The home crowd jeered Strikers midfielder Gonzalo De Mujica for an obvious flop in the box, after which he rolled around Brazilian-style as the ball was crossed back into the box and De Mujica could have been in position for a possible header, except for the phantom injury. Seriously, we are the Strikers not Brazil; can we not flop and roll around? Show a little Clint Dempsey. You got blood on you? Don’t wipe it off.
Fans even started turning on each other, as popular Strikers fan The Jesus either “stole” or “found” the FTLC’s peanuts and shared them with the rest of the crowd (the facts surrounding this caper are disputed).
As I mentioned, the fans were getting restless.
After 120 minutes of soccer the game proceeded to penalty kicks. Both teams made their first five kicks. And then Matt Glaeser became the hero, stopping the 6th and 7th Laredo PK. Here’s Glaeser with a glorious PK stop:
The Laredo goalie Emmanuel Frias stopped the Strikers’ 6th PK, but the Strikers’ Finnish captain Toni Stahl scored on the 7th and the game finally ended late on a Tuesday night.
And here’s the team celebrating, with Glaeser and Stahl the heroes:
It was a game that should have ended much earlier, but the Strikers won and will play MLS charter team FC Dallas Tuesday night at Lockhart. We can’t wait. The Strikers will need to play a hell of a lot better to be competitive in the upcoming match, and we definitely have faith. FC Dallas is currently in first place in the MLS Western Conference, but we know that is temporary and that Dallas is where good soccer goes to die. Bunch of Romo’s in Dallas.
For more Striker coverage check out Fat Hand’s recap of the historic Florida (soccer) Derby versus Tampa Bay and the opening Strikers match at Lockhart this season.
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