In our first half we looked at some of the biggest stories of 2011. In this second half we will start looking to some of the biggest events of the year and how South Florida got back onto the national soccer map and who the most important figure was in the renaissance.
5. MagicJack were removed from WPS
Despite having one of the most dynamic and star-studded teams in the WPS, MagicJack were not able to overcome two things- Western New York Flash and team owner Dan Borislow.
The Boca Raton resident and inventor of the Magic Jack came in and had multiple clashes with the WPS. There were several instances in which the team president blatantly broke rules ranging from no match report publication to illegal pitch dimensions and even public criticism of the league. The league would not tolerate Borislow’s outburst and his lack of professionalism, thus deciding to pull the plug on the club he moved from Washington the year before.
“If we go away, they won’t have a league”- MagicJack owner Dan Borislow
Borislow was not able to get out of his own way in order to better market the team and truly continue to ride the wave of momentum that some of his players (Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Christine Rampone and Hope Solo) courtesy of their performance in the Women’s World Cup in Germany. His relationship with the local media was minimal and despite that, the fans would show up to the pitch.
4. Marlins played final game at Sun Life
Many soccer fans blame the arrival of the Florida Marlins and the lack of maintenance/ eventual demolition of the Orange Bowl as reasons why soccer in South Florida at the international level went on a downward spiral after the 1994 World Cup. There obviously were other reasons as to why this occurred, but we’ll go into that at another time.
Miami was considered to be a possible venue in that World Cup, but the Marlins were not willing to make some concessions to make Joe Robbie Stadium (now Sun Life) available for this tournament. The stadium would then be virtually unavailable for future soccer events for years to come as the Orange Bowl would be used for the Olympic Games as well as various friendlies and international tournaments until it closed its doors in 2008.
The Miami Marlins announced that 2011 was their last year at Sun Life as they had the City of Miami build them a new stadium in Little Havana, place where they will begin playing in 2012.
The move now allows Sun Life to stage several soccer-related events as this was one of the original motives for the building of the venue in North Dade 24 years ago by the late Miami Dolphins and Ft. Lauderdale Strikers owner Joe Robbie.
The home of the Miami Dolphins will now see the Mexican national team return to Miami for the first time in eight years as they will face Colombia in February. One of those stories to keep an eye on when the calendar changes.
3. Ft. LauderdaleStrikers reach NASL final in maiden season
The NASL saw its first season become a very successful one. Numbers were positive and the feedback and support from communities all over were a big proponent. Ft. Lauderdale (formerly Miami FC) saw their attendance increase tenfold compared to their time in the USL.
Marketing as well as form contributed to the crowd numbers as the team overcame a slow start to the season to become the third seed in the playoffs.
The Strikers would vanquish Edmonton in the first leg of the playoffs and would then brush the Puerto Rico Islanders en route to the finals. The men led by Daryl Shore would end up in the finals against a solid Minnesota side that came in to the tournament having eliminated regular season table toppers Carolina and would continue their magic carpet ride to the inaugural NASL title. Minnesota won the away leg 3-1 and would end up playing an intelligent match at Lockhart Stadium as they earned a scoreless draw amid a rainy pitch.
2. USA Returned To Miami
Miami was a place in the 80’s and 90’s that the US national team frequented for international friendlies. For many fans of the Stars and Stripes, a US match in South Florida was virtually an away match as many teams that they would play against would bring in more support. Miami sports fans have also had a reputation of being fickle and disinterested in any team that is not a winner. They were also infamous for being fans that made cats look like they loved rain and getting wet.
That all changed when the US national team decided to return to South Florida for the first time in seven years. Although the attendance numbers would not be the most mind-blowing, at first sight the conditions made it the 21,170 that braved the conditions much more impressive.
The match was played on October 8th amid a torrential downpour that was affecting South Florida for weeks. This match also felt the final effects of Tropical Storm Philippe, which was downgraded from a hurricane three days before. If one were to compare the attendance in several other places such as Los Angeles as well as Philadelphia (USA vs. Mexico), Miami’s attendance made a huge impact in an area where the US was supposedly still not a big draw.
The US did not disappoint as Clint Dempsey would score the eventual game-winner and Tim Howard would be the man of the match on this day.
- Chivas Top World Champs
History was made on August 3rd in South Florida when 70,080 fans packed Sun Life Stadium to see FC Barcelona face Chivas Guadalajara. This match would become the highest attended match in Florida football history. The previous marked was held in Orlando.
Miami proved that they were an event town. Although Barca were missing Lionel Messi, Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano as they ended their participation in Copa América the team was still getting together in order to prepare for their Spanish Supercup showdown against Real Madrid.
On this day, it would not be Xavi, Iniesta, David Villa or any of their superstars that would be the stars. Instead that honor would go to Chivas man Marco Fabián de la Mora whose brace would help propel the Sacred Flock to a huge 4-1 win against the reigning European champs.
David Villa would open the scoring early in the match, but the Mexican giants would answer back with four goals in the second half that left its supporters with one of the biggest “scalps’ of the off-season. Chivas would become the first team to have ever scored four goals against a Barça side during the Josep Guardiola era. Ok, it was a friendly, but it is still a night Chivas fans would not quickly forget.
Neither would we as that was the biggest story of the soccer calendar here in South Florida.
Personality of the Year: We’re going to go Time Magazine and make The South Florida Soccer Fan the personality of the year. They answered the call by Don Garber and proved to America that they are great soccer fans not by arguing, but by showing up. Congratulations to you all.
ANY OTHER SUGGESTIONS? IF YOU HAVE ANY… WE’LL MENTION THEM AND YOU WILL GET THE CREDIT.