(Photo courtesy of sascorpions.com)
The San Antonio Scorpions kicked-off their North American Soccer League’s 2013 season earning a fair 0-0 draw against Minnesota United FC. It was a lively, wide open game with scoring chances for both teams. Twice (once for each team), the ball hit the crossbar and twice Scorpions goalie Pat Hannigan's reflexes saved the team from defeat. But even though Minnesota kept possession for most of the game, the Scorpions held their own, always answering each attack by the home team and mentally controlling the game.
Even though the season has just started, the Scorpions’ message was loud and clear: San Antonio will be a tough team to beat. Tim Hankinson’s boys applied asphyxiating pressure throughout the game, making life difficult for Minnesota midfielders and forwards. Only at the end of each half Minnesota seemed on the verge of finally beating Hannigan, who had a solid game (as did former Scorpion Daryl Sattler on the opposing goal).
By the time the Stars had their first clear chance to score (24 minutes into the first half, a tremendous shot by Simon Bracallelo from a tough angle that went wide), the Scorpions already had three: a good play but poor finish by Ivan Milicevic in the 7th minute, a chipped ball by Hans Denissen that went just wide on the 15th, and a poorly executed free kick, again by Denissen. Minutes later, Walter Ramírez asked for his turn at a free kick and executed a beautiful low left-footed cannonball that was superbly saved by Sattler, the league’s best goalie.
Minnesota finally took control in the last 15 minutes of the first half, but the Scorpions’ defense was solid, with Stephen DeRoux becoming a stealing machine and 6-6 tall Luka Vucko heading away all danger.
The second half showed a more aggressive Minnesota side, but again, the Scorpions were the first to come close: Ramírez on the left side almost scored, but Sattler flew to his left in another amazing save on the 60th minute. Four minutes later, a ferocious header from Edin Husic hit the crossbar, but Minnesota came right back and an incredible save by Hannigan deflected a point-blank shot by former Scorpion Aaron Pitchkolan on the 69th minute. Bracalello again hit the crossbar from outside the penalty area, but the Scorpions responded in the 82nd with a great Nikola Vasilic shot saved by Sattler.
Neither team deserved to lose, but the Scorpions showed more offensive options while Minnesota mostly brought danger from outside or through crosses. Husic showed good technique and willingness to sacrifice for the team, stealing several balls, but needs a little more speed. Ramírez was the most dangerous in offense, but the team needs to take advantage of turnovers and counterattack with at least three more men instead of stealing a ball and not finding any open players. Still, it was an encouraging showing by the Scorpions, which seemed much more solid than in the early 2012 season.
“We had some chances, but it was a tough day and San Antonio were very organized and came here and looked strong,” said Minnesota coach Manny Lagos, a former U.S. international, after the game.
“[Hannigan] made some great saves, but really the MVP of the game is the crossbar for both teams,” said Scorpions coach Hankinson.
The Scorpions next game is at home Saturday, April 13 at Toyota Field against league champions Tampa Bay Rowdies. The game will be televised live by KSAT 12. Tickets are $7-$66 and you can buy them here.