Much has changed in the world of football in the past eight years since the Miami Fusion folded. Despite having their best season ever in that final year, 2001, when the Fusion was one game away from the MLS Cup as well as having their best year in attendance, Major League Soccer pulled the plug and effectively killed soccer in South Florida.
Other than losing a team, one of the worst aspects of the whole episode was that Fusion fans never had a chance to say goodbye to their team. In that final game against San Jose at Lockhart Stadium, most Fusion fans anticipated seeing the team return the following season under the leadership of coach Ray Hudson. Sadly, a few weeks later, the news was broken on local radio that Major League Soccer had contracted the Fusion and I, as well as many fans, cried at the loss of not only just a team, but an institution that was a large part of our lives.
That 2001 Miami Fusion team was one of the most entertaining to have ever graced Major League Soccer. Each member of the team was blessed with skill. Players like Ian Bishop, Pablo Mastroeni, Alex Pineda Chacon, Preki, Ivan McKinley, Nick Rimando, Jay Heaps, Carlos Llamosa, Ian Woan, Brian Dunseth, Jim Rooney, Chris Henderson, Tyrone Marshall, and the list goes on and on.
The one player that had always been our favorite and continues to live in the folklore of soccer in South Florida was — and is — Diego Serna. During those years with Miami, the Colombian striker was world-class. He captured the imagination of South Florida with his unbelievable goals from the most extraordinary angles, as well as the commitment he showed on the pitch during the incredible Florida heat. This was a player who wore his heart on his sleeve, was emotional and often got into clashes with previous managers at the Fusion.
For supporters of other Major League Soccer teams, Diego Serna was a pest. This was a player who continually got in the faces of opposing defenders and, much like Cristiano Ronaldo, had a penchant for diving in the penalty area to win fouls. When it happens against your team, it’s criminal. But when a player does it for your team, it’s magical.
After Miami Fusion folded, Diego Serna went on to play for the Metrostars, New England Revolution, Los Angeles Galaxy and Colorado Rapids — although he never regained the form he had while at Miami. Serna also played in Colombia and Brazil.
Thankfully for soccer fans in South Florida, USL team Miami FC announced last week that they had captured the signing of the Colombian legend. The player will captain the side for the opening game of the USL season against Cleveland on April 18 at Lockhart Stadium.
Finally, soccer fans will be able to say goodbye and say welcome back at the same time to a hero. And hopefully see a new chapter in the career of Diego Serna and the history of soccer in South Florida.