American Soccer League (1988-1989)
American Professional Soccer League (1990-1994)
Born: 1987 – ASL founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1994 – The Strikers withdraw from the APSL.
Team Colors: Red, Yellow & Black
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers of 1988 to 1994 were the second incarnation of the famed American soccer club. (The brand name has subsequently been revived two more times). The original Strikers played in the North American Soccer League from 1977 through 1983 and were owned by the Robbie family, who also owned the NFL’s Miami Dolphins at the time. The NASL strikers attracted world class international such as West Germany’s Gerd Mueller, Northern Ireland’s George Best and Peru’s Teofilo Cubillas. The club was popular in South Florida and occasionally sold out Lockhart Stadium to the tune of nearly 20,000 fans in the late 1970’s.
But enthusiasm for the Strikers and the NASL more generally faded in the early 1980’s and the Robbies moved the club to Minneapolis in late 1983. In Minnesota the original Strikers soon transformed into an indoor team and dissolved in June 1988 after years of multi-million dollar losses. Meanwhile, the NASL went out of business in early 1985, leaving the United States without a major outdoor pro soccer league for the next three years.
The American Soccer League launched in 1988 to fill the pro soccer void along the East Coast. A number of former NASL cities joined and dusted off old their identities, including the Strikers, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and a new version of the Washington Diplomats. One promising sign was the return of the Robbie family to operate the Strikers in Fort Lauderdale. Several old Strikers fan favorites from the NASL era – now mostly in their mid-30’s – returned to the club as well, including Cubillas, midfielders Ray Hudson and Thomas Rongen and goalkeeper Arnie Mausser.
The Robbies entrusted the on-field product to long-time soccer executive Noel Lemon, another veteran of the NASL days. Lemon hired Wim Suurbier as Head Coach and the Strikers finished the 1988 debut season of the American Soccer League in first place. But the Strikers lost both legs of the two-game ASL championship series to the Washington Diplomats. The deciding loss came at home on August 27, 1988 before 4,257 fans at Lockhart Stadium. In the locker room following the match, an angry Noel Lemon cut Teofilo Cubillas, ostensibly for missing a team practice several days earlier.
“<Cubillas> is the biggest disgrace I’ve ever been associated with,” Lemon added after the loss. Cubillas would play a handful of games for the ASL’s Miami Sharks the following summer before his pro career came to a quiet end in 1989. The Peruvian World Cup hero is a fixture on Top 50 and Top 100 rankings of the best footballers of the 20th century.
It was an ignominious dismissal for one of the franchise’s all-time greats. Lemon’s outburst drew a public admonition from Joe Robbie, but Robbie’s health was in decline and his time with the Strikers was short. Robbie sold the majority interest in the Strikers to Lemon in early 1989 before the club’s second season. Joe Robbie would pass away in January 1990. His wife Elizabeth, founder of the original Strikers in 1977, died in 1991.
Long-time Striker Thomas Rongen replaced Wim Suurbier as Head Coach for the 1989. The Strikers defeated the Boston Bolts to win the ASL championship in August. In early September, the Strikers travelled to San Jose, California to play in a “national championship” match against the San Diego Nomads, the champions of the Western Soccer League. The Strikers prevailed 3-1. The Strikers would reach the ASL final for a third straight season in 1990, losing to the Maryland Bays.
After the Robbies left the picture in early 1989, the Strikers financial fortunes declined steadily. Noel Lemon was not a wealthy man and the club experienced cash flow problems, ultimately resulting in Lemon’s loss of the franchise in late 1991. The ownership turned over several times in the early 1990’s, including a period late in the 1992 season where the team became an owner-less ward of the league. Lemon sued to regain control of the club and fought for his reinstatement until the team’s demise following the 1994 season.
==Fort Lauderdale Strikers Programs on Fun While It Lasted==
Strikers owner (1988) Joe Robbie died on January 7, 1990 at age 73.
Strikers founder/owner Elizabeth Robbie passed away in November 1991.
Defender Barry Wallace succumbed to cancer on October 17, 2006 at age 47.
Strikers President and owner Noel Lemon died on November 22, 2012. Lemon was 68 years old.
American Soccer League Media Guides
American Soccer League Programs