A nightmare on Wurzbach Pkwy: Scorpions lose home opener

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Off the pitch, everything was a big party for the San Antonio Scorpions on Sunday, April 15: a crowd of 13,501 (a total sell out) watched their first home game, exceeding the expectations of even the most optimistic fans.

On the field, it was a disaster: the team lost 0-4 against the Puerto Rico Islanders, in the first home game (and second overall) for San Antonio’s newest expansion team in the second-division North American Soccer League (NASL). The week before, the Scorpions had tied 0-0 in their visit to Atlanta, not a bad result. But even though a loss at home was a possibility, the way in which they lost (unable to score and after missing two penalty kicks) was a tough blow for a team that, right up until then, had done everything right.

The Puerto Rican fans (most of them SA residents, and many of them stationed in local military bases) were outnumbered, but they were loud.

The local fans (Bexar County Casuals, Alamo City Ultras, and the Crocketteers, the biggest of them all) started showing their support for hours before the game started.

Finally, everything was ready for the big historic moment: for the first time, the Scorpions could be seen in action at home.

But early on, it was clear something was wrong: the Puerto Rican forwards were fast and unpredictable, and the slow Scorpions’ defense unable to stop them. Twenty minutes into the first half, the Scorpions were down 0-2 after two defensive mistakes. The score wasn’t bigger because goalkeeper Pat Hannigan had a couple of superb saves in both halves. The Scorpions had a good chance to equalize when they were down 0-1, but Brazilian forward Pablo Campos’ penalty kick hit the crossbar. After that, the team’s first real scoring chance came in the 26-minute mark, but the PR goalie responded well. A minute after that, midfielder Kevin Harmse’s shot went just wide, and at 28’ a header by Campos found no Scorpions ready to get the rebound.

The Scorpions kept possession throughout the game, but were unable to do anything with it, while the Islanders attacked sporadically but showed effectiveness. Honduran midfielder Walter Ramírez was the most dangerous Scorpion, but had no help from his teammates — he was battling alone in PR’s wilderness (Ramírez is skillful, but he needs to stop faking it as soon as he’s touched; no referee will buy it).

The last 10 minutes of the first half were the best for the Scorpions, but they had very few clear chances: it was more desire than soccer.

The second half showed no changes: the Scorpions kept the ball, but PR was the team that scored. Ten minutes into it, PR forward Nicholas Addlery scored the Islanders’ third goal by rushing like a rocket in between two Scorpions defenders that were slow to react.

Still, the Scorpions kept on trying, and at the 68th minute the team earned a dubious penalty that was again taken by Campos. This time, the well-placed kick was brilliantly saved by PR goalkeeper Richard Martin.

The PR Islanders scored the fourth goal at 72’ via center-forward Jonathan Faña’s lethal counterattack, right after the Scorpions had squandered their best chance in the game. After this goal, many fans started leaving the stadium.

This is far from over: the season has only started and, to the Scorpions’ credit, the team never gave up. They have a lot of work to do, especially on defense, but they lost to a team that hasn’t allowed a goal in two games and has a lot more time playing together. In 2010, PR even beat the first division, Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy 4-1 in Los Angeles (they lost 1-2 in PR, but advanced to the next round on a 5-3 global score). My point: the Scorpions didn’t lose to nobodies, and they showed a fighting spirit even when they were four goals down.

The next game is this 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 21, against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. — Enrique Lopetegui

 

 

 

 

 

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