The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are on the brink of making the NASL playoffs, and a home win Saturday night against Ottawa would do the trick.
With their victory last Saturday over FC Edmonton, the Strikers maintain a two-point lead over the Carolina RailHawks for the fourth and final playoff berth. A win over eighth-place Ottawa clinches the spot, no matter what Carolina does.
The Strikers could also advance with a tie, so long as the RailHawks don’t win and make up a minus-four goal differential between the two teams. Even a loss against Ottawa could be enough to get the Strikers in, but they don’t want to rely on a Carolina loss against Minnesota United.
“We need a minimum of one point and don’t want to depend on anybody else’s results,’’ said Strikers coach Gunter Kronsteiner. “It’s all in our hands. We are extremely focused, and know what is at stake.’’
Kronsteiner warned his players that Ottawa can be “very dangerous’’ even though the Fury is out of the playoff race and has lost three games in a row. Kronsteiner hung in the Strikers’ locker room newspaper articles and Twitter posts in which Fury players say they want the knock the Strikers out of the playoffs.
“We don’t want to approach this game with a nonchalant attitude and be punished for it,’’ said Fafa Picault, the Strikers’ leading scorer. “We are looking for three points. They want to spoil our playoff dream, so we have to go into assassin mode and go at them with everything we’ve got. We also want to give our home fans a win on the last home night and kick up into a new gear heading into the playoffs.’’
Ottawa will be without its captain Richie Ryan, who is serving a red card suspension.
Minnesota United FC is the top seed entering the playoffs, followed by the San Antonio Scorpions. The N.Y. Cosmos are virtually guaranteed the No. 3 spot.
“At the beginning of the year, nobody expected much from us, but we have developed a great relationship among the guys,’’ Picault said. “We have such a mix of nationalities and styles, it’s like a sauce of different spices and everyone adds something special. I’ve said all year we can win this league, and I still believe that.’’
Kickoff at Lockhart Stadium is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $12. Call 954-606-0400 or go to strikers.com for more information.