Two players without numbers on their uniforms combined to score the only goal of the game Thursday night as the Fort Lauderdale Strikers defeated host FIU 1-0 in a pro-vs.-college men’s soccer exhibition.
Because this is the preseason for the Strikers, 12 of their 26 roster members are players who have not been issued numbers because they are still trying to make the squad.
That’s why Nicholas Chase, who got the assist, and David Santamaria, who got the winning header in the 77th minute, had to be extra thrilled to make the score sheet.
“They came in and got us a win — so that’s always good,” Strikers coach Daryl Shore said when asked if combining on the goal helped their chances of sticking around. “We still have a couple of roster spots to fill, so we needed to see some guys.”
For Chase, it was a happy homecoming because he played for FIU until 2001 before competing professionally last year for Chattanooga FC in Tennessee.
“I saw [Santamaria], and I knew I could make the cross,” Chase said. “Making this team is all up in the air. I hope this helps.”
Santamaria said the Strikers had a nice build-up to the goal.
“We were rotating the ball, it ended up on the right wing, and Nick made a nice cross,” said Santamaria, who played with the Strikers in 2011 before competing for the Atlanta Silverbacks last year. “I just flicked it to the second post.”
The Strikers opened the game with five of their normal starters: goalie Matt Glaeser, defenders Ivan Guerrero and Toni Stahl, midfielder Pecka and forward Darnell King.
Still, they dominated possession for most of the game and got the score past FIU goalie Daniel Mion, who is playing because normal starter Robin Spiegel is out until August with a rotator-cuff injury.
FIU coach Kenny Arena was pleased overall, especially defensively.
“We had a couple chances to score early in the game, and that would have helped us get confidence,” he said. “We could have combined a bit better and gotten more possession.
“But we got a lot of young guys in — guys with talent.”
Arena praised his freshman center back, Marvin Hezel, as well as Mion, a rising sophomore.
FIU and the Strikers also played last fall at Lockhart Stadium, and both coaches want to continue the series.
“Full credit to Kenny and FIU — they’ve come a long way,” Shore said. “It took us a long time to break them down [and get the goal]. They made it difficult for us and had a couple of good chances in the first half.
It’s a good relationship between us and FIU. It’s great when you have quality college teams in your area and a pro team [the Strikers] that we feel is pretty good as well.”