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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

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