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Charles Cuttone

Norb Ecksl

December 9, 2015
Zanardi on the hot seat for Strikers

by Norb Ecksl
Sunshine Soccer News Editor

Next through the revolving door, Caio Zanardi.

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers have named named the Brazilian, their General Manager since 2015, as their new coach, replacing Gunter Kronsteiner.

Zanardi brings a wealth of international experience to the Strikers. He has worked under and with such illustrious coaches as Carlo Ancelotti of Real Madrid, Louis van Gaal of Manchester United, Luiz Felipe Scolari, now with Guangzhou Evergrande in China, and Fabio Capello, who was most recently the Manager of the Russian National Team. Zanardi has earned an A License in Brazil and an FA International License in England.

But will that experience translate to the NASL?

Zanardi has watched matches in the North American Soccer League since his arrival in South Florida, and will need to be a quick study of NASL clubs, coaches and personnel to succeed in his dual role as Head Coach and GM.

Already during Zanardi's tenure as GM, the Strikers have lost their Most Valuable Player from 2015, Golden Ball winner Stefano Pinho, to Minnesota, leaving a big hole to fill in the hurry-up effort to assemble a club to perform in the Florida Cup that begins in January. The Strikers will be matched against some international powers that will take every advantage of a Fort Lauderdale club with many new faces in the lineup and some new tactical strategies.

Luis Cuccatti, the Managing Director of the Strikers and representing the Strikers' ownership group, promises that a much larger budget will be committed to player personnel than in the past. "We will increase the soccer budget by at least three times from what it was last season," said Cuccatti. "Our ownership group is committed to winning and Caio, who is known as 'General Z,' will be given all the tools to reach our goals."

Admirable, but what a monumental task.

And don’t underestimate the NASL teams scheduled for play in 2016. There are new coaches throughout the league; in Indy (Tim Hankinson), Minnesota (Carl Craig), Jacksonville (Tony Meola), Ottawa (Paul Dalglish) and Miami (Alessandro Nesta), in addition to openings in Puerto Rico, Oklahoma City and San Antonio that have not been filled yet.

With the international connections of Zanardi and the ownership group, adaptability is a plus as the Strikers position themselves to succeed in the new NASL landscape. The organization already demonstrated that necessary resourcefulness last season, when ownership found Victor “PC” Giro last year, who is returning for 2016 and Stefano and Marlon Freitas.

More teams in the NASL and more competition for players will make the job more difficult, but success will bring more wins and bigger crowds to venerable Lockhart Stadium next year.

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