One reason the Fort Lauderdale Strikers entered Saturday night’s game on a three-match unbeaten streak is Brazilian forward Stefano Pinho.
The 24-year-old Sao Joao Nepomuceno native, who joined the Strikers this season on loan from Brazilian club Fluminense, was named NASL Player of the Week last week after scoring both goals in a 2-0 road win at FC Edmonton. He also scored a goal in the previous game.
“I am happy to receive the award,” Pinho said. “This honor is for all of my teammates, not just for me.”
Heading into the weekend, Pinho was the league’s second-leading scorer with nine goals, one behind leader Omar Cummings of San Antonio.
“He, for sure, is deserving of this Player of the Week honor,” Strikers coach Günter Kronsteiner said. “To score two goals away from home in such an important win was a big performance from him. I thought the whole team played well, not just Stefano. Edmonton is a tough place to play, but we didn’t allow them to create many chances and we finished ours.”
Pinho learned the game from his father, Ze Luiz , who played forward for Cruzeiro.
▪ Zelalem on U-23 roster: Eighteen-year-old phenom Gedion Zelalem was among 24 players named by U.S. national coach Andi Herzog for the Under-23 training camp to prepare for the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament. The teams that advance earn berths in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Zelalem was born in Germany to Ethiopian parents. He moved to Bethesda, Maryland, in 2006 with his father after his mother’s death. He played for the German U-15, U-16 and U-17 teams, but became a U.S. citizen Dec. 29, 2014, and decided to play for the United States.
He is under contract with Arsenal of the English Premier League, but is on loan with Rangers. He had two assists in his debut in the Scottish League Cup last week.
The 10-day camp begins Sunday in Manchester, England, and will feature friendlies against England on Sept. 3 in Preston, and Qatar on Sept. 8 in Bury. Fans can follow the action live via Twitter through @ussoccer.
“These are two important games here because they are our last before the Olympic qualifying tournament,” Herzog said. “We have a strong group of players that we believe in, and now we are able to look at some of the guys who did very well with our U-20 team. This is really the last chance for all of the players to make an impression before we select the final roster for qualifying.”
The U-23 team played in the Toulon Tournament in Europe earlier this year. It beat the Netherlands and Qatar, and advanced to the third-place playoff, where it defeated England and matched the best U.S. finish ever. The U-23 team also beat Mexico in an April friendly.
The 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship is Oct. 1-13. The United States opens with two games at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, against Canada on Oct. 1 and Cuba on Oct. 3. The third U.S. game is in Commerce City, Colorado, on Oct. 6 against Panama.
Roster By Position
▪ Goalkeepers (3): Cody Cropper (MK Dons), Ethan Horvath (Molde), Zack Steffen (Freiburg).
▪ Defenders (8): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact), Boyd Okwuonu (Real Salt Lake), Shane O’Neill (Apollon Limassol), William Packwood (Unattached), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Oscar Sorto (L.A. Galaxy).
▪ Midfielders (8): Gboly Ariyibi (Chesterfield), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), Benji Joya (Club Necaxa), Marc Pelosi (San Jose Earthquakes), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Gedion Zelalem (Rangers).
▪ Forwards (5): Alonso Hernandez (C.D. Juarez), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht), Maki Tall (Scion).
MLS: East — D.C. (44), Columbus (38), N.Y. Red Bulls (37). West — L.A. (46), Vancouver (45), K.C. and Portland (40).
NASL: Ottawa (20), N.Y. (16), Minnesota, Edmonton, Atlanta (15), Fort Lauderdale (13), Jacksonville (10), Indy (9), San Antonio and Carolina (8), Tampa Bay (7).
On the tube
Sunday: Southampton vs. Norwich (8:30 a.m., NBCSN), Swansea vs. Manchester United (11 a.m., NBCSN), Toluca vs. Leon (1 p.m., Univision), Monaco vs. PSG, 3 p.m., BeINSport USA), Seattle vs. Portland (5 p.m., ESPN), Portland Thorns vs. Washington Spirit (9:30 p.m., FoxSports 1).