The Fort Lauderdale Strikers figured the five-week break between seasons would provide welcome adjustments. Winless in their last five NASL Spring matches, the Strikers looked for a better result in Saturday night’s fall-season opener.
But the spring malaise continued for the Strikers. Goals from Daniel Mendes, Christian Ramirez and Miguel Ibarra gave spring champion Minnesota United FC a 3-0 victory over Fort Lauderdale before a crowd of 3,092 at Lockhart Stadium.
“They scored and we didn’t score — that’s the biggest difference,” Gunter Kronsteiner said. “You need to score. Today I think we could play two more hours and not score once. The chances were there.”
Minnesota, meanwhile, capitalized on its opportunities and looked to increase a one-goal lead at halftime with repeated pressure early in the second half.
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The attacks on Fort Lauderdale’s defense eventually paid off with Ramirez’s goal in the 59th minute for a 2-0 Minnesota lead. Justin Davis dribbled deep toward the penalty area, centered a pass that eluded two Fort Lauderdale defenders and found Ramirez, whose sliding shot landed under the crossbar.
Minnesota scored its final goal on Ibarra’s strike in the 78th minute. Ibarra stole Strikers defender Daniel Alves’ errant clear and dribbled unmarked toward goalkeeper Kamil Contofalsky. Ibarra eluded Contofalsky, who left the goal area to cut his angle, and converted on a shot that landed inside the right post.
The Strikers had two late chances at avoiding the shutout. Minnesota goalkeeper Mitch Hildenbrandt recovered and stopped Aly Hassan’s shot that deflected off the left post in the 80th minute. Hildenbrandt also saved Darnell King’s shot with three minutes remaining.
Fort Lauderdale now has lost five and tied one since a 4-0 victory against Atlanta on May 10.
Minnesota struck first on Mendes’ goal off Justin Davis’ corner kick in the 24th minute. Contofalsky failed to clear Davis’ kick from the right flag and Mendes capitalized on the deflection to tap in a conversion inside the 6-yard box.
Fort Lauderdale’s best scoring threat of the first half occurred in the 35th minute, when Hildebrandt deflected Jenison Brito’s 15-yard shot, immediately reacted and stopped Shawn Chin’s attempt off the deflection.
The Strikers had another opportunity in stoppage time but Stefan Antonijevic’s header inside the 6-yard box sailed above the crossbar.
“This is all about finishing your chances and we didn’t do that,” Krosteiner said. “They don’t play around. When they get their chances, they finish them.”