Soccer

Strikers to meet rival Miami FC in Fall Season opener

Ft. Lauderdale Strikers' Luis Fernandes drives the ball during a match against the Miami FC at the Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on April 2, 2016. The match ended in a 1-1 tie.
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers' Luis Fernandes drives the ball during a match against the Miami FC at the Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on April 2, 2016. The match ended in a 1-1 tie. mocner@miamiherald.com

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers return home Saturday night to face rival Miami FC after knocking off two Major League Soccer teams on the road and advancing to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Lockhart Stadium.

Saturday’s game is the NASL Fall Season opener for both teams. The first and only other time they met was in the season opener, Miami FC’s league debut, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. The Strikers went on to finish sixth in the Spring Season standings, and Miami ended in 11th place.

For the Strikers, the match will be a chance to build on their upsets of D.C. United and Orlando City, and their late-Spring Season surge. After a slow start, they went unbeaten the final five matches. For Miami FC, it will be the debut of two recently signed players with MLS experience — midfielder Kwadko Poku of NYCFC, and defender Gabriel Farfan who played three seasons with the Philadelphia Union before going to the Mexican league.

“We played the first match of the season against Miami FC, which was a hard game, and Saturday is going to be more of the same,” Strikers coach Caio Zanardi said. “It’s going to be another complicated game, we know this. All the teams in our league are at the same level. Our players are tired a little bit from playing 120 minutes in Orlando, but we are recovering, and we have to be prepared to fight. Miami has good players and a good team. It will be a wonderful match.”

On Wednesday night, the Strikers beat Orlando City 2-1 with a 120th-minute last-gasp goal. They move on to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals to play another MLS team, the Chicago Fire, on July 20 in Chicago. Of the eight teams remaining, the Strikers are the only non-MLS team left.

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