Last Saturday’s game against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers marked the midway point to the Spring season. It’s been a bumpy road to the start of 2013 after an impressive inaugural year becoming regular season champions.
The sophomore slump looks to be in full effect this year with one win in our first six games. The defense started well letting in only three goals in the first three games but eight in the next three plummeted our Scorpions to the bottom of the NASL table.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of this season to date.
The Good: The offense has come alive of late. Where we couldn’t score in the first three games of the season, the Scorpions have now scored seven in the last three. Those seven goals are tied for leading the league in the last three games. San Antonio lost it’s leading goal scorer from last season and heading into 2013 Coach Hankinson wanted to have goals come from many different players. He has accomplished that so far with five players combining to score the seven goals. Hans Denissen leads the team with two goals and Edin Husic has a goal and also claimed the last touch on the final goal of the game against Fort Lauderdale (credited as an own goal to the Strikers). Towering 6’6″ defender Luka Vucko has a goal off a header as well and has several other opportunities to add to that. Vasilic and Saavedra are the two other goal scorers with Saavedra leading the team with two assists.
The Bad: San Antonio has allowed eleven goals in the first half of the Spring 2013 campaign and eight of those have come in the last three games. The Scorpions received a thrashing in Carolina when the Railhawks quite easily tallied five goals. It was the most goals ever scored on the Scorpions in one game. The result from that defeat dropped San Antonio to last place in the standings. The defense has a lot to answer for those recent goals. Poor marking and a lethargic attack to the ball left many opponents wide open to put a shot on goal. Injuries have done a lot to stunt the growth of the defensive unit but their woes have deeper roots that need to be addressed. Either the coach needs to adjust his strategy or the players have to rise up and be held accountable. Someone must take charge.
The Ugly: The Scorpions have only 5 points after six games and stand sixth in the league out of seven teams. Carolina and Tampa Bay lead everyone having earned 11 points each. A realistic end of the Spring season would at best bring in 12 points. 17 total points would not be enough to win the Spring season. Any of the five teams ahead would only have to win three games to move ahead of San Antonio. The 2013 Spring season is effectively over. The new split season format takes the first place of the Spring season to face off in the NASL Soccer Bowl with the first place team of the Fall season. The Fall season will be even more difficult to win. The New York Cosmos will be joining the league adding two more games to the season (and removing the two bye weeks each team has currently). Every team will be more determined to get the wins. Also, the month off between July 4th and August 3rd will be crucial to keep the form that the team is only starting to show.
Most would probably agree that, with the new split season format, the Spring season is lost to us. The second half of the season should focus on getting bench players play time, continue building team chemistry, and MOST IMPORTANTLY advancing deep into the US Open Cup tournament. The first US Open Cup game is tonight against FC Tucson with the winner playing MLS side Houston Dynamo next week. Last year, the Scorpions advanced to the fourth round after beating the Dynamo 1 – 0 and lost to the Charlotte Eagles in extra time. The Scorpions MUST place this national tournament as their main focus going forward. Looking ahead, the US Open Cup schedule is played mainly during the Spring 2013 season. Rotate the starters so they can rest on Saturdays and put all our effort into Tuesdays’ games.
Now for the mid-term grades. From best to worst: Outstanding, Exceeds Expectation, Average, Approaching Expectations, Needs Improvement
Goalie: Hannigan started the 2012 season before an injury brought in a crowd favorite Daryl Sattler. Hannigan played the first three games (his injury was late in game three) but let in six goals in that short time. Four goals were scored in the home opener against Puerto Rico in front of 13,151 fans. This season, Hannigan started the first five games, allowing 10 goals in that stretch including 5 vs Carolina back on May 11. A goalie change was made and Jeremy Vuolo was given the opportunity in game six last weekend against Fort Lauderdale. While Vuolo wasn’t called upon to make any spectacular saves, he did more to communicate with his defense and was outstanding negating the Striker’s aerial threat. Vuolo is sure to have earned a return call for another start in between the posts. (Grade: Approaching Expectations)
Defense: Coach Hankinson has played Vucko, Williams, Janicki, Wagner, Martin, Harmse, and DeRoux on defense this season. Only Vucko and Wagner have been regulars; Janicki and DeRoux have had injuries (DeRoux made an appearance as a substitute in San Antonio’s most recent game.); Martin played as a forward in his first appearance; and Harmse is a midfielder who stepped forward to fill an outside defensive spot. The rotating door of defenders has not helped with the chemistry. After starting the season behind only Carolina and Minnesota with the best record for goals against, the Scorpions are now tied second-to-last just head of Fort Lauderdale. Looking toward the US Open Cup tournament, the defense will have to be even better than how they started the season. (Grade: Needs Improvement)
Midfield: The midfield has had it’s own roller coaster for performances. They have been too inconsistent week-to-week. Some outings the passing play and attack looks choreographed and then they can’t keep the ball on their feet the next game. Walter Ramirez has continued his form from last season and newcomer Pat Phelan has provided a welcome bit of leadership and experience in the center. Most improved must go to Edin Husic who started the season shaky but has since scored a goal and caused an own goal. Bryan Jordan has also been a welcome addition this year and most were grateful to see him back in the lineup having recovered from his injury. If some of the midfielders can start making runs on the outside wings, the Scorpions’ attack could only be bolstered. (Grade: Average)
Forwards: The attack has looked much better recently. Bayona was the lone striker in the May 18 win and was involved in all three Scorpions’ goals. He also leads the team with seven shots on goal. Leading the team with two goals, Hans Denissen had the day off Saturday (presumably to rest him for tonight’s game). Milicevic started the season up top but too many missed opportunities and unable to control the ball has dropped him from favor. The other forward on the roster in Nikola Vasilic has mainly come on as a substitute and has done well in that role scoring one goal. There has been more consistency and attacking threat as of late and the players are working hard to continue producing goals and bring in the wins. (Grade: Average)
Coach: Head Coach Tim Hankinson is now in his second season coaching the San Antonio Scorpions. He was impressive last year and brought a trophy in the inaugural season. A lot of work was put in during the off season studying film and contacting many European players. The beginning of this season hasn’t gone the way he has hoped. There have been some questionable decisions in player choices and formations Hankinson has had to make due to injuries on the back line. Also in question is his ability to adapt. Several games have ended without every substitution being used. Hankinson has the depth to the squad he wanted yet two of those games have ended in losses and Hankinson didn’t go to the players he signed to help off the bench. The second half of this season will show where the priorities lie going forward. (Grade: Average)
Overall, the San Antonio Scorpions have had a poor showing in their second year. It’s to be expected – no one is taking us for granted this year. They have gotten better in recent weeks but will have to tighten up their defense in order to move up in the NASL standings and progress far in the US Open Cup. The Cup should be the main focus as national recognition can only help bring more attention to San Antonio. With the New York City FC announcement earlier today joining the MLS, San Antonio must move into that national spotlight as a soccer team to keep an eye on. The US Open Cup is the way to do that.