Last week we discussed the steps taken by the Tampa Bay Rowdies to turn around the club after a disappointing 2014 season. The Rowdies as mentioned in the piece have raided the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and south Florida to acquire new players.
Since that article ran, our TKR writers have spoken to several people around the American soccer and the NASL who assure us that the Strikers have a “strong plan” and a “clear idea” of what direction the club will progress in future seasons.
Controversy over the departure of several players and Head Coach Günter Kronsteiner have marred the off-season and soured many loyal fans on the club’s new ownership. However, multiple sources assure us that the Strikers are working diligently to reach new sets of fans in southeast Florida as well as working towards building a global reach that will make the club one of the most recognizable US-based pro soccer teams.
The continued stumbles of David Beckham’s MLS bid in Miami have given Fort Lauderdale more time to figure things out, though a small number of fans have indicated they would be inclined to support Orlando City who have moved to Major League Soccer if the Strikers do not make sufficient progress in the near future. In contrast however, the same fans have universally ruled out potential support for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The allure of MLS has always made southeast Florida a difficult market – Fort Lauderdale remains one of only two cities in the country that have lost an MLS franchise permanently, and having an MLS team less than 200 miles up the road is tempting for some supporters.
I spoke to a prominent national soccer contact of mine who sought to remain anonymous this past week. The contact was upbeat about the Fort Lauderdale situation “they are taking the steps to build a global brand, something NASL badly needs. Right now only the (New York) Cosmos have an international presence and most MLS clubs don’t have any global recognition.” Whether global branding translates to success in the local southeast Florida market remains to be seen, but the organization seems to be turning some heads with their ambition.
Rumors have also begun to circulate that the global icon Ronaldinho is on the radar to be signed by Fort Lauderdale. But we could not verify any of these rumors and so for now it simply belongs in the “wishful thinking” category. Regarding the critiques made of the Strikers organization signing only one player to this point it is worth noting that Miami FC (which was based in Fort Lauderdale and re-branded as the Strikers after the 2010 season) had not signed a single player prior to February entering the 2009 or 2010 seasons.
So the Strikers may not be behind schedule after all. Or maybe they are more focused on the commercial side than the playing side. Time should sort this out as the club is now under two months away from its preseason opener in Jacksonville.
THE KARTIK REPORT RELAUNCHES IN JANUARY AND WILL COVER EVERY ASPECT OF FLORIDA SOCCER. AMONG OUR LAUNCH FEATURES WILL BE AN IN-DEPTH PROFILE OF THE FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS AND JACKSONVILLE ARMADA OWNERSHIP GROUPS.