Strikers Find Rhythm, Defeat Rowdies for Coastal Cup Lead

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After a three-game winless streak, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers look to have finally found its rhythm versus a familiar foe in the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The Strikers last win was on July 25 versus the Rowdies in Tampa Bay when the red-and-gold spoiled Freddy Adu’s NASL debut, but since have found themselves in trouble, not being able to come out with a W all of August, but rather settling for ties after dominating most of the game to FC Edmonton and Atlanta Silverbacks.

“Most of earlier games this season were like that,” explained forward Stefano Pinho. “We would dominate the entire game and then in the end we seemed to shut down and we would concede these silly goals that were our fault. We would essentially lose to ourselves.”

Stefano, who is on loan from Fluminense, has been one of Fort Lauderdale’s brightest spot in what has been a rocky season that began with the addition of Léo Moura back in March.

The team leader in goals, Stefano added his seventh goal to his NASL account on Saturday early in the match when the Brazilian received a ball 25 yards out from Gabriel, controlled it, turned and finished with a left-footed strike to the top left corner. The goal was number three on ESPN’s Top Plays the following day.

“It was an ‘in-the-moment’ situation, I knew he wouldn’t expect me to shoot that far back so I did,” said Stefano with a smile.

The Strikers were able to defeat the Rowdies at Lockhart on Saturday night in front of 5,145 fans, take the lead in the 2015 Coastal Cup, but most importantly, they got their swagger back.

“We have a different mentality now,” explained Stefano.  “We’ve put the blame of those late-game ties on us and now we are getting better as a result. We have a great team.”

“In the second half, we were the better team,” said Head Coach Günter Kronsteiner. “Now, we have to keep trying and keep working to do things better.”

The win at Lockhart is Kronsteiner’s first in his second stint as the Strikers head coach.

“Günter [Kronsteiner] has been working hard with us throughout this season,” explained Stefano. “It took a little longer to get it going than we all expected, but Günter is doing a fantastic job with the group. He came to put the house in order, we have a young team and we are continuing to get better as the season progresses, and hopefully we will make the playoffs”

The Strikers currently sit in 9th place in the combined standings but are only five points back of fourth-place Tampa Bay.

The Strikers continue their march to the playoffs on Sunday as they take on FC Edmonton north of the border.

Pedro Heizer

The founder, editor and publisher of 90 Minutes Stong, Pedro is credentialed member of U.S. Soccer, Orlando City Soccer Club, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and others, as well as a member of the North American Soccer Reporters.

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