Stunned by two early goals, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers couldn’t recover and please their largest home crowd since the franchise was reborn two years ago.
Diomar Diaz scored two first-half goals as the New York Cosmos defeated the Strikers 2-0 on Saturday night before 7,653 at Lockhart Stadium. With the victory, the Cosmos maintained their lead in the North American Soccer League Fall table and swept the season series after an earlier win against the Strikers on August 3.
“The whole first half we weren’t in our game,” said Strikers assistant coach Raoul Voss, who guided the team Saturday in place of head coach Gunter Kronsteiner. Kronsteiner served a one-game suspension after his ejection in Fort Lauderdale’s previous match at Edmonton on Sept. 15.
The Cosmos (4-3-1, 15 points) capitalized on an inattentive Strikers defense with Diaz’s first goal in the ninth minute. Ayoze’s centering pass from the left wing found an open Diaz near the post, where he headed in a shot into the open net.
Diaz struck again in the 32nd minute with his second goal, beating Strikers’ goalkeeper Richard Sanchez with an 18-yard shot.
An offside infraction cost the Strikers’ Carlos Salazar a goal in the 66th minute. New York goalkeeper Kyle Reynish also denied Salazar with a diving deflection off his indirect free kick in the 81st minute.
“In the second half, we showed the fight and the will to win — we did better,” Voss said. “But it still wasn’t enough.”
The loss snapped a five-match unbeaten streak for the Strikers (3-2-3, 11 points).