This Saturday, Minnesota United FC is in Fort Lauderdale to take on the Strikers, the team that's currently at the bottom of the NASL Standings. Fort Lauderdale tied Edmonton on the season's opening day, but hasn't earned a point since, losing twice on the road and once at home.
For a few answers about the Strikers, I contacted Pieter Brown, who hosts the nationally known internet soccer radio show Ultras Alive (www.UltrasAlive.com). You can listen Monday nights at 8pm Central Time as they discuss every level of American pro soccer.
1. Four games in, and the Fort Lauderdale has only one point. What's gone wrong for the Strikers?
One point in four games is an embarrassment, but the Strikers have been dealing with a lot of early injuries. Midfielder Walter Restrepo, midfielder Mark Anderson, and defender Ivan Guerrero have all dealt with the injury bug. All that said, the main problem is they have not been able to score goals. Stefan Dimitrov (on loan from NY Cosmos) has started every game at forward, with little to show for it. With the return of forward Aly Hassan, maybe things will change for the better.
2. Young goalkeeper Cody Laurendi replaced Matt Glaeser in the starting lineup last week against Tampa Bay, but he was injured and carted off the field. What is his status going forward, and while he's out, will the team go back to Glaeser, or go with another option?
Laurendi is out for the season with a lacerated kidney, and will need 6-9 months for a full recovery. Glaeser will get his staring spot back for now. Glaeser has had a unusually poor start to the Spring Championship. Word is the Strikers will bring in another quality keeper to push Matt. [NOTE: Pieter later followed up to note that several people on Twitter have suggested that former Tampa Bay keeper Jeff Atinella, now with Real Salt Lake, will join the Strikers on loan.]
3. What is going on with forward Andy Herron?
The Andy Herron soap opera is in full effect. Andy spoke to the Strikers owner and complained about his lack of playing time. From what we have gathered Coach Daryl Shore did not appreciate Andy going behind his back and the player and coach had a falling out. I was notified by the Strikers that Herron is still under contract and part of the team. They are looking at their options regarding Andy, who clearly wants out. We were supposed to have Andy on our show Ultras Alive, but he was advised against it.
Here's a quote from the Costa Rican striker's Facebook account: "I'm not running away.. is not my style, I love this challenges, the real reason, is because a spoke to the owner.. for the team benefit but Daryl see it the other way.. 17 years playing pro..never see this.. thanks to all of you..and God bless.."
4. No one in the NASL took more shots last year than Strikers midfielder Mark Anderson, and it brought him 11 goals. Through four games, though, he's without a goal. Is it time to worry?
Mark Anderson had a pre-season injury that he is still getting over. That said, he is in a slump for sure. He has missed clear shots that he would have put away last year... but we are not worried yet. The best thing for Mark will be Walter Restrepo getting back into the starting lineup, as Anderson plays much better when Restrepo is on the field. Last year Mark went into a similar slump when Walter got injured. Look for Restrepo to start this weekend.
5. Can Fort Lauderdale turn it around this spring, or is it time for them to start looking toward the fall season?
Technically the Strikers are still in the hunt for the spring championship, but they need to go on winning streak pronto. While I hope for the best, I fear the worst. I am not confident they can dig their way out of the basement for a Championship run. They are one of the lower payroll teams in the league, and it shows. Lucky for the Strikers, they can have a fresh start in the fall.
My thanks to Pieter for helping out with the Q&A this week.