Is This a Fútbol Town?

As Miami plays political footsie with the first-place Fusion, the U.S. Soccer Federation prepares to give the boot to Fort Lauderdale's hopes for a national training center

At least it will for the next three years. That's the remaining lease the Fusion has with the stadium, with three options for five more years apiece. After that, at least in theory, Miami may be able to tilt the scales.

Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation special facilities director Vince Gizzi acknowledges Miami's ploy to filch the Fusion. But he's completely unfazed. In fact he goes on the offensive, saying that the Fusion should drop the Miami moniker altogether.

"We know they played at the Orange Bowl, and we think they were just looking for exposure," Gizzi says. "But Horowitz keeps spending money here, and when you look at it, there's just no reason to move."

The "Afusionados" at Lockhart Stadium are enthusiastic but few in number
Miami Herald
The "Afusionados" at Lockhart Stadium are enthusiastic but few in number


Read Related New Times Story, Total ConFusion

The Fusion brings some valuable revenue to both the City of Fort Lauderdale and the School Board of Broward County, from which the team leases the Lockhart land. Gizzi doesn't have a hard figure, but comparatively speaking the Baltimore Orioles bring in about $25 million for the six weeks that they're in Fort Lauderdale for spring training. That includes hotels, restaurants, ticket sales, and concessions. If that's only six weeks, it can be inferred that an entire soccer season generates considerably more flow.

"I know Miami would love to have a soccer team of their own," he says, "but to tell you the truth, I haven't felt threatened. The Orange Bowl will continue to look for a tenant to keep them in business. But we have a better, more intimate venue in Lockhart. And we have a lot of soccer history in Fort Lauderdale.

"Personally I'd like to see them change their name to the Fort Lauderdale Fusion because they essentially are. It would help with the visibility of the city also."

Anything would help. On July 18, in a home match against the Chicago Fire -- the team with the second-best record in the MLS -- the Fusion drew little more than 6000 fans. Three days later against the New England Revolution, that number was even smaller.

Two days later Miami's Abrams had a working lunch with Fusion GM Hamilton to discuss how many games will be played in Miami next year. Hamilton says they reviewed this year's games and left the door open for future conversations on future matches. "As we look at the bigger picture of what we want over the next 18 months, we'll look to see whether something at the Orange Bowl makes sense," he says. He adds that they did not agree on how many, if any, Fusion games will be played at the OB next year.

The Orange Bowl game June 30 was a nail biter. While the Fusion took a commanding 4-1 lead -- thanks to some sharp passing and one dazzling goal by midfielder Preki -- the Columbus Crew fought back in front of a hostile crowd, penetrating the Fusion's depleted back line with distressing regularity in the second half. But when time expired, the Fusion was still on top, four goals to three.

Coach Hudson was his usual ebullient self after the game, lighting up the press conference with sound bite after sound bite:

"You can see why they call this the Magic City."

"The Orange Bowl was a fantastic venue. If God were a soccer fan, he would play on this field."

"This was one of those nights when the Fusion was littered with courage. It was just pure balls."

"I don't want to say [the Fusion's performance] is what champions are made of, but I just did."

When pressed with the question about whether or not the Orange Bowl would serve as a better venue than Lockhart, the stadium in which Hudson built his stateside career, he pooh-poohed the Bowl idea.

"Lockhart is my home," Hudson said after the game. "But the Orange Bowl, this was a stadium for footballin' tonight."

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