The Fort Lauderdale Strikers played up a weight class for the second time in a month on Sunday night.
Unlike a close loss to FC Dallas of Major League Soccer on May 28, the Strikers’ friendly against Brazil’s Cruzeiro turned ugly early and ended in a rout.
Cruzeiro scored three times in the first half and rolled to a 4-0 victory at Lockhart Stadium, handing the Strikers their eighth loss and fourth shutout in 13 games this spring.
“We found out that if you make mistakes against the caliber of a team like that, you get punished for them,” Strikers coach Daryl Shore said.
“We got punished three times for making silly mistakes on our end. … But that’s a great team. I’m proud of our guys for hanging in and fighting until the end. We made it a little more difficult for them in the second half.”
The Strikers played backward for most of the night as Cruzeiro — a top team from Belo Horizonte — made themselves comfortable on Lauderdale’s side of the pitch.
Cruzeiro’s 3-0 halftime lead meant the Strikers were all but done. They haven’t scored three goals in a match this spring, and has scored two goals just once in 13 games.
“I’m not happy with this,” said former FIU forward Jahbari Willis.
Cruzeiro opened its scoring when Luan headed in a corner shot from Mayke. Just over 10 minutes later, Bruno Rodrigo made it 2-0 when he beat goalie Matt Glaeser off a crisp pass from Souza.
A few minutes later, it was 3-0 when Anselmo Ramon scored off another corner shot — this one from Everton Ribeiro in the 38th minute.
The Strikers replaced Glaeser (five shots faced, two saves) in the second half with Lionel Brown. He fared a little better as the pace slowed although Cruzeiro, again, spent what seemed like the entire second half in the Strikers’ zone.
Vinicius Araujo gave Cruzeiro its fourth goal of the night in the 77th minute after driving in on Brown. Cruzeiro was credited with three shots in the second half.
Brown kept it from becoming a five-goal night in the 86th minute by stopping Araujo in the box.
“Teams in our league aren’t that good,” Shore said. “Now we can raise our level.”
Fort Lauderdale has two more games before concluding its NASL spring campaign.
The Strikers play host to San Antonio on Saturday before traveling to play the rival Tampa Bay Rowdies on July 4. Fort Lauderdale’s fall season begins in August with a game against the rejuvenated New York Cosmos.
Cruzeiro, which had a majority of the Lockhart crowd wearing its royal blue, continues its North American tour with a date against Mexico’s Monarcas Morelia in Chicago on Friday.
“Obviously, for me, it was a taste of home,” said Fort Lauderdale midfielder Rubens, from São Paulo, said through an interpreter after swapping his yellow-and-red Strikers’ jersey for Cruzerio blue. “Being around an environment that was so familiar really gives you pride and it was a honor to play against a team like that.”