It was a strange 2014 season for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who nearly won the North American Soccer League title despite having a goal differential at the end of the 27-match schedule of -1. The season also saw an ownership change in south Florida, and at the end of the season, massive changes to both the coaching staff and the squad.
Popular head coach Gunter Kronsteiner was shown the door almost as soon as the season came to a close, to be replaced by Marcelo Neveleff. Also leaving were Darnell King, Fafa Picault, and Mark Anderson, who were key players in last season's group.
The club didn't do much to replace those players early, instead getting a bit creative, and working out loan deals with several top Brazilian clubs. That patience landed PC Giro, Stefano Pinho, and Marlon Freitas for the season, before the Strikers captured the signature of former Brazil international Leo Moura.
Notable additions: Leo Moura, Marlon Freitas, Stefano Pinho, PC Giro, Jordan Graye, Evans Frimpong, Jose Angulo, Frankie Sanfilippo, Karsten Smith, Stephane Guillame, Fabian Kling, Joe Nasco, Walter Ramirez, Jonathan Borrajo, Dani Sanchez, Ryan Adeyele
Key departures: Mark Anderson, Justin Chavez, Marius Ebbers, Rafael Alves, Darnell King, Martin Nunez, Fafa Picault
2015 outlook: The Strikers are one of the hardest teams in the NASL to predict, following the massive turnover this winter. They've dramatically increased the amount of talent in the squad for the 2015 campaign, and have generally looked good thus far during the preseason. I'd still expect some bumps in the road, however, as when NASL teams get a look at what the Strikers like to do, adjustments could be tricky for a squad that hasn't been together for very long.
I believe that the Strikers turn into one of the league's better sides, even if they're one of the more erratic ones as well. Look for this club to be challenging for a playoff spot this season, and to be a draw MLS sides won't be excited about in the US Open Cup.