Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1998-2001 Miami Fusion

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Major League Soccer (1998-2001)

Born: April 9, 1997 – MLS expansion franchise
Folded: January 8, 2002

Stadium: Lockhart Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Ken Horowitz

MLS Cup Championships: None

 

The Miami Fusion were Major League Soccer’s early misfire in the South Florida market. Cellular One founder Ken Horowitz paid a $20 million expansion fee for the club in the spring of 1997. He paid an additional $5 million to renovate Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium into a 20,000-seat soccer-specific venue. The club began play in 1998 with Colombian National Team captain Carlos Valderrama as its top drawing card.

The Fusion stumbled through three losing campaigns. Attendance bottomed out at a league-worst 7,460 per game game in 2000 and the team struggled to attract any corporate sponsorship interest. MLS, which controls all players contracts at the league level, returned the unhappy Valderrama to his original MLS club, the Tampa Bay Mutiny, early in the 1999 season. The Fusion received nothing in return for their top player.

The Fusion’s fortunes revived with the hiring of charismatic former Fort Lauderdale Strikers star Ray Hudson as manager midway through the 2000 season. Hudson and Fusion General Manager Doug Hamilton put a thrilling team on the field in 2001. Newly acquired midfielder Preki dished out assists to forwards Alex Pineda Chacon and Diego Serna, who finished 1-2 in MLS in scoring. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and fullbacks Carlos Llamosa and Pablo Mastroeni anchored the stout defense. The Fusion earned Major League Soccer’ Supporters Shield with a league best regular season record of 16-5-5. Hudson’s squad was upset by the San Jose Earthquakes in the playoff semi-finals.

Though the Fusion’s attendance rose nearly 4,000 fans during the 2001 campaign, the franchise still ranked at the bottom of MLS in team revenues. Team owner Horowitz grew exhausted with the team’s losses. Major League Soccer contracted the Fusion, along with the similarly trouble Tampa Bay Mutiny club, on January 8th, 2002.

 

Miami Fusion Memorabilia

 

Miami Fusion Video

 

In Memoriam

Former Fusion General Manager Doug Hamilton passed away March 9, 2006. Hamilton was General Manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy at the time and on a flight with the team when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was just 43.

 

Downloads

June 7, 1998 Miami Fusion vs. MetroStars Game Notes

 

Links

Major League Soccer Media Guides

Major League Soccer Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

March 4th, 2017 at 5:19 am

1988-1994 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

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Fort Lauderdale Strikers APSLAmerican Soccer League (1988-1989)
American Professional Soccer League (1990-1994)

Born: 1987 – ASL founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1994 – The Strikers withdraw from the APSL.

Stadiums:

Owners:

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. Jimmy McGeough Fort Lauderdale Strikers

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==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1988

1988 7/1/1988 @ Orlando Lions ?? Program

1989

1989 6/11/1989 @ New Jersey Eagles W 1-0 Program
1989 9/9/1989 San Diego Nomads W 3-1 Program

1990

1990 5/5/1990 vs. Miami Freedom ?? Program
1990 5/20/1990 @ New Jersey Eagles W 2-1 Program
1990 5/26 1990 vs. New Jersey Eagles ?? Program
1990 7/26/1990 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies ?? Program

1991

1991 8/17/1991 @ Miami Freedom ?? Program

1992

1992 8/16/1992 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies W 2-1 Program

 

 

==In Memoriam==

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.

 

==Links==

American Soccer League Media Guides

American Soccer League Programs

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June 7, 1998 Miami Fusion vs. MetroStars

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Tony Meola MetroStarsMiami Fusion vs. MetroStars
June 7, 1998
Lockhart Stadium
Attendance: 9,073

Major League Soccer Programs
68 pages

 

1998 was the first year of expansion for three-year old Major League Soccer.  The league went into Chicago with great success and also into Miami, where things weren’t quite so rosy.  Miami Fusion investor-operator Kenneth Horowitz spent a reported $5 million to convert Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium into what was essentially the league’s first soccer-specific stadium.  But after a season-opening sellout of 20,450 for the Fusion’s inaugural match on March 15, 1998, attendance quickly dipped into the sub-10,000 territory that would plague Horowitz’s club throughout its brief existence.

This June 7th match against the MetroStars was the Fusion’s seventh home date, not counting a in-season friendly against the Honduran National Team.  By this point in the summer, the withering South Florida heat became a factor in the Fusion’s worrisome attendance as well.  Many of Miami’s home matches were scheduled as matinees and Lockhart Stadium was a 97-degree cauldron when the Fusion and the (New York/New Jersey) MetroStars took the field at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Giovanni Savarese put the visitors up 1-0 in the 35th minute, but the Fusion controlled the run of play, outshooting the Metros 28-11.  New York goalkeeper Tony Meola, pictured on the cover of the afternoon’s FREEKICK game program, turned away 27 of those shots, but couldn’t stop a 15-footer from Miami’s Diego Serna in 63rd minute to bring the score even at 1-1.  Savarese took himself out of the match just a minute earlier with his legs beginning to cramp up in the heat.  It was Saverese’s replacement, Miles Joseph, who knocked home the winner for the Metros with just two minutes left in regulation.

Serna would go on to play all four seasons of the Fusion’s existence and finish as the club’s all-time leading scorer with 52 goals in 100 appearances.  MLS contracted the Fusion in January 2002, along with the league’s other Florida club, the owner-less Tampa Bay Mutiny.  To this day, the Fusion and the Mutiny remain the only franchises to fold in MLS’ 18-year history.

One interesting roster note for this match:  Tony Meola’s understudy at the goalkeeper position was Tim Howard, parked deep at the end of the MetroStars bench.  The future U.S. National Team starter and English Premier League mainstay would only appear in one match for the Metros all season, making his MLS debut on August 18, 1998.

 

 

==Downloads==

June 7, 1998 Miami Fusion Game Notes

June 7, 1998 New York MetroStars Game Notes

 

==Links==

Major League Soccer Media Guides

Major League Soccer Programs

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Written by AC

September 21st, 2013 at 10:41 pm

April 9, 1980 – Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. New York Cosmos

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Fort Lauderdale Strikers vs. New York Cosmos
April 9, 1980
Lockhart Stadium
Attendance: 18,572

North American Soccer League Programs
112 pages

 

One of the all-time great matches in Fort Lauderdale Strikers history.  The Strikers hosted the mighty New York Cosmos at Lockhart Stadium in front of a near-sellout crowd in their third match of the 1980 North American Soccer League season.

The Strikers leaped out to a sudden 2-0 advantage, thanks to a pair of quick goals from Peruvian World Cup star Teofilo Cubillas in the 6th and 7th minutes. Francisco Marinho, who played for the Cosmos in 1979, set up both of Cubillas’ first half goals.  In the 2nd half, it was Cubillas and Marinho again, with Cubillas getting his third of the night for a hat trick in the 51st minute and Marinho adding the coup de grace in 87th en route to a resounding 4-1 victory.

On the other end of the field, Strikers defender Ken Fogarty frustrated New York’s star striker Giorgio Chinaglia for most of the night, holding the NASL’s all-time leading scorer off the scoring sheet until it no longer mattered. Chinaglia got his first goal of the 1980 season in the 80th minute when it no longer mattered, but it kept the Cosmos from suffering a shutout.

What was otherwise a great night for soccer in Fort Lauderdale was marred late in the final minute of the match when a fan leapt over a field barrier and assaulted Iranian-born Cosmos defender Andranik Eskandarian.  The U.S. was in the thick of the Iranian hostage crisis at the time.  Chinaglia got a few kicks in at the attacker before he was lead away by police.  Eskandarian was dazed but unhurt.

After the match, Cosmos players and coaches spoke highly of the Strikers effort.

“If they play with the guts they played with tonight, they’ll be in the Soccer Bowl,” Cosmos technical director Julio Mazzei told Hal Habib of The Miami Herald.

Franz Beckenbauer agreed.  “If they always play like tonight, they’ll have a good chance to win the championship.”

Mazzei and Beckenbauer were right.  This match turned out to be a preview of the Soccer Bowl ’80 championship match, played five months later before 50,000 fans in Washington D.C.   But the Cosmos would flip the script in the Soccer Bowl, taking apart the Strikers with a decisive 3-0 victory.

Bob Lenarduzzi of the Vancouver Whitecaps was pictured on the cover of the evening’s KICK Magazine match program.

 

==Downloads==

April 9, 1980 Fort Lauderdale Strikers Game Notes

April 9, 1980 New York Cosmos Game  Notes

 

==Additional Sources==

“Cosmos Expect To Get Better”, Hal Habib, The Miami Herald, April 10, 1980

“Cosmos Lost It, Fan Attacks Player”, Ike Kuhns, The Newark-Star Ledger, April 10, 1980

 

==Links==

New York Cosmos Home Page

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1984-1985 Fort Lauderdale Sun / South Florida Sun

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United Soccer League (1984-1985)

Born: 1984 – USL founding franchise.
Folded: July 9, 1985

Stadium: Lockhart Stadium (20,000)

Team Colors: Red & Yellow

Owners:

USL Championships: None

 

The Fort Lauderdale Sun were an oddball pro soccer entry during the dark years of the mid-1980’s for the outdoor game in the United States.

The United Soccer League formed in February 1984 by a break-away faction of owners from the ramshackle 2nd division American Soccer League (1933-1983).  The Sun were a brand new franchise, created to fill the void after the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League (1977-1983) moved to Minneapolis three months earlier.  The Sun had only a fraction of the budget of the old Strikers clubs, but managed to bring back a handful of ex-Strikers for familiarity, including Peruvian World Cup star Teofilo Cubillas (who agreed to play home games only), Thomas Rongen and player/coach Keith Weller.  Other notables included long-time English National Team defender Dave Watson and Scottish international midfielder Asa Hartford, both of whom played for the Sun in 1984 but did not return in 1985.

Original Sun owner Ronnie Sharp was a 36-year old Scottish footballer who starred for the Miami Toros of the North American Soccer League during the 1970’s and then remained in South Florida.  Less than a month into the 1984 season, Sharp was arrested in Laredo, Texas and indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to smuggle 200,000 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. from Colombia.

Despite the circus atmosphere surrounding Ronnie Sharp, the Sun put together a league-best 15-9 record and advanced to the USL’s best-of-three championship series against the Houston Dynamos in late August 1984.  The series came down to a deciding Game Three played at Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium on September 1, 1984.  Dave Watson was the hero of the game for the Sun, scoring the team’s only goal in regulation and then burying the decisive penalty kick to give then Sun the first (and, as it turned out, only) championship of the United Soccer League.

Following the 1984 season, seven of the nine original USL franchises went out of business.  The Sun came back for a second season in 1985 with a new name (South Florida Sun) and a new ownership group of 13 area physicians and businessmen who took over from Sharpe.  In mid-June, the Sun signed a three-year contract with former Ajax, New York Cosmos and Dutch National Team star Johan Neeskens to a three-year contract, although the team was already falling behind on payroll to its existing roster.   Neeskens played only one league game for the Sun before the league folded in midseason (he would never receive a paycheck).

After the USL died in late June, the Sun drifted along for another couple of weeks, making noise about playing out the summer with a series of exhibitions.  But the money was gone and there was no point.  The team’s final hurrah was an exhibition against the Topez-Haitian All-Stars of Miami on July 4, 1985 as a warm-up act for the city’s Independence Day fireworks show.  The unpaid players split the gate proceeds from the crowd of 3,529 and disbanded four days later.

 

==Sun Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
6/9/1984 vs. Houston Dynamos ?? Program Game Notes

 

In Memoriam

Colin Fowles, a longtime Striker who signed with the Sun in 1985, was murdered during a recreational soccer game in Miami’s Bunche Park.  Fowles was an innocent bystander.  The murder was not solved, although authorities suspected a notorious Jamaican drug gang.  Fowles was 32.

Sun player/coach Keith Weller died of cancer at age 58 in November 2004.

 

Downloads

June 9, 1984 Fort Lauderdale Sun Roster 

 

Links

United Soccer League Media Guides

United Soccer League Programs

###

 

 

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