With the North American Soccer League spring season limited to nine games, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the league’s other nine teams realize the value of each performance.
The Strikers followed the “no-room-for-error” theory in their season opener Saturday night. Rafael Alves and Darnell King scored goals to lead the Strikers to a 2-0 victory over the Ottawa Fury at Lockhart Stadium.
“This is a sprint not a marathon,” Strikers coach Gunter Kronsteiner said of the league’s abbreviated season to avoid a conflict with the World Cup. “You need a lot of luck — no question about it. Maybe this year the luck will be on our side. I hope so.”
Alves scored the Strikers’ first goal of the season and gave Fort Lauderdale a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute. Fury goalkeeper Devala Gorrick deflected Mark Anderson’s indirect free kick but failed to clear the shot. Alves retrieved the deflection and blasted a shot that landed inside the right post.
“It was important because if helped the team early in the game,” Alves said of his early conversion. “But I understand there is still plenty of work to do.”
The Strikers’ best opportunity at increasing their first-half lead was on Chis Nurse’s header near the 6-yard box that sailed wide left in the 41st minute.
Goalkeeper Oka Nikolov, a 19-year veteran of the German Bundesliga, had a successful Strikers debut. Nikolov kept the Fury scoreless with deflections off shots from Vini Dantas and Carl Haworth in the sixth and 17th minutes.
King increased the Strikers’ lead with his goal in the 80th minute. Marius Ebbers sent a long pass to an unmarked King toward the right wing. Gorrick deflected King’s first attempt, but King retrieved the carom and beat Gorrick with a shot from 10 yards.
Santos A. Perez
• St. Thomas 8-5, Embry-Riddle 0-6: Junior Emilio Ogando pitched a complete game, two-hit shutout as the Bobcats (29-16, 17-7 Sun Conference) defeated the 13th-ranked Eagles (31-16, 20-4) in Game 1 of a doubleheader to win the weekend series. Ogando (7-1) was masterful throughout the game, striking out eight, walking none and retiring the last 17 batters he faced.
• Lynn 11-10, Nova Southeastern 9-0: The host No. 21 Sharks (24-13, 8-10 Sunshine State Conference) dropped a pair of games against the No. 5 Fighting Knights (32-8, 14-4).
• Barry 3-4, Florida Tech 1-2: The Buccaneers swept a doubleheader from the Panthers to take the Sunshine State Conference series two games to one at Buccaneer Field. In Game 1, the Bucs (22-16, 7-1) scored one in the first and two in the second, and Taylor Sabol (7-7) tossed a complete game and struck out nine as Barry evened the series. In Game 2, Kelly Martinez belted a three-run homer, her first of the season, in the fifth inning to erase a 2-1 deficit and lead the Bucs to the victory.
• St. Thomas 4-7, Thomas 0-4: Junior Natalie Sacramento hit a three-run home run to break a 0-0 deadlock in the ninth inning to propel the Bobcats (19-19, 4-6) to a Sun Conference doubleheader sweep of host Thomas senior Brenda Emerson (11-8) pitched a complete-game shutout and allowed six hits to earn the win.
The No. 16 Nova Southeastern tennis team (13-10, 3-5 SSC) lost a road match against No. 8 Rollins (14-5, 3-3) 7-2 in the final regular-season match for the Sharks.