Despite record attendance, Fort Lauderdale Strikers fall to New York Cosmos in NASL season opener

Record attendance proved insufficient in lifting the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in their season-opening match.

Leo Fernandes’ goal in the 58th minute gave the New York Cosmos a 1-0 victory over the Strikers on Saturday night at Lockhart Stadium. The match attracted a crowd of 11,691 — the highest home count since the third version of the Strikers began in the restored North American Soccer League four years ago.

Fort Lauderdale began the second half aggressively, seeking to break the scoreless draw with attacks on the New York penalty area. But Fernandes’ strike changed the match’s pace and deflated the Strikers.

Former Striker Walter Restrepo sent a corner kick toward the far post, where Fernandes headed in a shot that eluded Fort Lauderdale goalkeeper David Meves.

Dani Sanches had the Strikers’ last opportunity at the equalizer, but Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer stopped his shot from 12 yards in the 85th minute.

“We didn’t deserve the result,” Strikers coach Marcelo Neveleff said. “Although we attacked repeatedly, we couldn’t finish our opportunities.”

Former Spain international and Real Madrid star Raul made his debut with the Cosmos and played the first 53 minutes.