Saturday, April 30, 2022

Soccer In South Florida

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

What a difference a week makes.

Last weekend, I made my first trip to DRV-PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, the previous sight of the now demolished Lockhart Stadium, to see the Miami Hurricanes in their Spring Game.

If you look close enough on the field, you can still see the football field. But you have to look very deep to see the gridiron. As I continued to look at the field, I gained a greater appreciation of how good these athletes are. Compared to a football field, the soccer field is so much wider.

But when I think of soccer in Fort Lauderdale, it’s impossible to for me to not reflect on my past history covering the Strikers back in 1982-83. I met my best friend Chip Namias who was the Strikers Director of Public Relations.

Jan Van Beveran was the Strikers goaltender. Other players on the Strikers include Teofilo Cubillas, Ray Hudson, Branko Segota, Robert Meschbach, Brian Kidd, Ken Fogerty and Keith Weller were some of the key players. The team was coached by Eckhard Krautzon and was 18-14. This team made the playoffs.

The attendance that season was 197,525 and the team averaged 12,345 in 16 home dates.

The 1983 Season saw a coaching change with David Chadwick taking over. The team regressed to a 14-16 record and attendance slipped to 162,430, averaged 10,829 per game in 15 dates. 

There were a lot of the same players and others worth mentioning include Gordon Dallas, Bob Bolitho, Steve Wegerle, Ricardo Villa, Thomas Rongen and Bruce Miller.

Hudson transitioned to coaching by managing the Miami Fusion, a former MLS team that played in the league from 1998-2001. Rongen has also had many coaching stops after his post Strikers career.

That was then and now into the present.

In March 2020, Hudson was named a color commentator of Inter-Miami. He’s the lead color commentator for the club. Rongen is a radio commentator for the club.

As I did my pre-game preparation for this game, I decided to start by comparing the Social Media for both Broward County Teams, Inter-Miami and the Florida Panthers.

What I saw was tremendously surprising.

I looked at both teams Twitter and Instagram Accounts.

On Twitter, Inter-Miami was following 227 and had 168,000 followers. On Instagram, Inter-Miami was following 119 and had 1,000,000 followers for a total of 1,168,200.

As for the Panthers there Twitter numbers are as follows: they’re following 1,222 and have 416,000 followers. On Instagram, they’re following 72 and have 305,000 followers for a combined total of 721,000.

Inter-Miami, which was founded on 1-28-2018 and played it’s first MLS Game on March 1,2020 has 447,100 more followers than the Panthers, which were founded in 1993. 

What do all these numbers prove? 

The most important thing is that soccer definitely is considered one of the most popular sports in the world. 

That’s evidenced by this comparison.

The Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since 1996, as the team has been dominant all-season long finishing with a 58-18-6 record and 122 points. Florida won its first President’s Cup Trophy by having the best record during the regular season. 

The Panthers quest for it’s first Stanley Cup Championship is a first round meeting with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 at 7:30 PM in Sunrise, FL.

Normally when I see Miami face Atlanta, it’s the Braves vs the Marlins. 

Ironically, the Marlins played the Braves this weekend.

Today, Inter-Miami hosted Atlanta United. 

During their series history, Atlanta United and Inter Miami have played each other remarkably even. The all-time record is split, both sides winning twice and playing to a draw three times. All seven meetings have been either draws or decided by one goal. And in those seen meetings, both teams have scored and conceded seven times.

Going into this matchup, the two clubs are on opposite ends of the Eastern Conference table. Atlanta United is 3-2-2 going into the match with 11 points. Meanwhile, Inter-Miami is 2-4-1 with seven points.

Miami is in the middle of a hot streak. After losing four in a row earlier this season, Inter-Miami picked up six points in back-to-back wins over Seattle and New England. They added a win over Miami FC in the U.S. Open Cup, giving Miami three wins over the last two weeks.

This game was televised on National Television on ESPN and didn’t disappoint as Inter-Miami overcame a 1-0 deficit to defeat Atlanta 2-1 in front of 13,433 fans.

This turned out to be another one goal contest as these teams continue to play close matches.

Leonardo Campana and Bryce Duke scored the goals for the home team as it improved its record to 3-4-1. Atlanta dropped to 3-3-2.

Heineken Man of the Match Campana now has five goals and two assists in the last four games, while Duke scored his first goal in MLS and for Inter-Miami.

After the match, as you’re going to see in the video inserted into this story, I asked Coach Phil Neville how important was it for his squad to win on National TV to gain the respect of the league.

Going into the match, Neville has patiently navigated through the team’s early existence. 

Not counting this game, in 42 contests, Neville’s team has 15 wins, six draws and 21 losses. 

Yet, during this process, he has a lot of respect from his players, who continually battle through the growing pains to reach contending status.

Inter-Miami took it’s four-game winning streak to New England and faced the Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. In the first matchup in April, Inter-Miami defeated New England 3-2.

In this contest, New England ended Inter-Miami’s four-game winning streak with a 2-0 triumph. The loss dropped Inter-Miami to 3-5-1 and the squad is 12th in the Eastern Conference.

Inter-Miami will continue their East Coast swing by traveling to North Carolina and face Charlotte at Bank of America on Saturday, May 7th at 3:30 ET.

A prime-time home match awaits Inter-Miami on Saturday, May 14 as D.C. United comes to town. 

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see where the team stands at that point. 

But the rest of the nation saw a squad that was poised to send to the rest of the nation that there are better days ahead.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

You can also see his broadcasts by Subscribing to the South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel at no cost.

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