Caribbean players premiere on South Florida stage
The 2016 North American Soccer League (NASL) season opened in dramatic fashion this past weekend at Lockhart Stadium, as The Ft. Lauderdale Strikers did battle with league newcomer and regional rival Miami FC, for 1-1 tie.
The NASL newcomers were given a early chance to seize the game when Ariel Martinez had his legs swiped out from under him by Fort Lauderdale’s Julius James from Trinidad and Tobago in the 12th minute. Seasoned Argentine striker Dario Cvitanich stepped to the spot and calmly scored Miami FC’s historic first ever goal in the league.
But Miami FC suffered a setback when just before halftime, Jorge Luis Corrales earned him an ejection through a second yellow card, leaving Miami one man short going into the second half of the game. But, despite the one-man disadvantage, Miami held together in the second half and looked poised for victory, before the dream was broken by Strikers’ defender Brad Rusin, who clipped forward Geison Moura in stoppage time to concede a penalty. Veteran Maicon Santos then shot right, giving Strikers a goal just before the final whistle. Both teams now take one point each on the NASL standings, neck and neck.
The game also provided an official introduction to three new Caribbean players on the local NASL circuit. Trinidad-born defender and former Soca Warrior Julius James joined the Strikers just this January. And this past February, the Strikers also welcomed Haitian-born mid-fielder, Jean Alexandre, who recently played on the starting line-up for Haiti’s World Cup qualifying match against Panama. Meanwhile, on the newly formed Miami FC side, Jamaica-born midfielder and former Reggae Boy, Dane Richards, also joined the new NASL team last December.
“We are excited to get out there and start the season,” said James about the new NASL tournament. “This league has fierce competition and this season will be a never ending battle from start to finish.”