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Miami Fusion FC 1998
15 W, 17 L
4th, Eastern Conference
Carlos Cordoba, Ivo Wortman
South Florida's Major League Soccer club, Miami Fusion FC, became the only South Florida professional sports team ever to make the playoffs in its inaugural season. Brazilian Ivo Wortmann led the team to a dramatic mid-season turnaround in ‘98.
With superstar Colombian midfielder Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama leading the way, the Fusion had positive energy during both the brilliant beginning and the rousing finish of the team's inaugural campaign. The Fusion kicked off the 1998 MLS season in style March 15, 1998, in front of a festive, sell-out crowd of 20,450 and a national television audience on ABC. In the afterglow of the colorful, springtime display, Fusion Investor-Operator Kenneth A. Horowitz drew rave reviews for his nearly $5 million renovation and expansion of Lockhart Stadium, which Soccer America magazine dubbed "the best facility in MLS."
On the field, however, 1998 was a season of both high points and low points - a four-game winning streak and a six-game losing streak, an 11- 5 home record and a 4-12 road record. Early in the year, the Fusion consistently came up just short of victory. The turning point came July 26, when Wortmann took over for Cacho Cordoba and guided the Fusion to its first-ever road victory in regulation - a dramatic 2-1 win over the New England Revolution. Prior to that, the Fusion was 8-11 with just three regulation wins (14 points), in last place in the Eastern Conference. The Fusion had scored just 19 goals in 19 games-a league-low 1.0 goals per game. From July 26 forward, the Fusion went 7-6, with all seven wins in regulation (21 points). Offering edge-of-your-seat excitement for fans, three of the Fusion's first four wins under Wortmann came on goals in the final four minutes of play. The Fusion scored 27 goals in his 13 games, more than doubling its previous average.
The 1998 campaign marked a breakout year for many of the Fusion's rising young stars. Colombian forward Diego Serna terrorized opposing defenses with his direct attacking style, going on to take the team's Most Valuable Player award. Rookie defender Leo Cullen played his way into the U.S. National Team picture, and goalkeeper Jeff Cassar was selected by Soccer America as the top goalkeeper and top American player in MLS.