Scorpions forward Hans Denissen scored twice and is tied as the league's top scorer with eight. (sascorpions.com)
“We may not be champions, but you’re not going to be crowned in our home either.”
That seemed to be the San Antonio Scorpions’ message in a spirited 2-0 win against the Carolina RailHawks. The Scorpions needed just one more goal to have a chance to win the North American Soccer League’s Spring season, and almost got it in stoppage time when midfielder Walter Ramírez hit the crossbar from outside the penalty area. But it would not have been enough anyway: the visiting Atlanta Silverbacks (6-3-3) convincingly beat the Minnesota United F.C. 3-0 and were crowned the league’s first champion of the year with 21 points. The Scorpions (6-2-4) had to settle for third place even though they tied runner-up Carolina (5-5-2) on points (20) and goal differential (4), but the RailHawks scored 20 goals in the season, one more than our team. That’s how close the league was.
It was a vibrant, at times rough game and both teams had several chances to score. Surprise substitute Esteban Bayona, who was expected to resume play during the Fall season after missing practice time due to family emergencies, entered the field in the second half but looked slow and missed three clear chances in five minutes. He’s a good player who becomes a nightmare for any defender when he’s in shape, so let us hope he’s fully recovered when the new season starts August 3 at Toyota Field against Tampa Bay Roadies (buy tickets here).
Both Scorpion’s goals were scored again by Hans Denissen at the end of the first half (off a rebound from Blake Wagner) and in the 86th minute thanks to a wonderful assist from Walter Ramírez, who again showed he deserves to be a starter. Denissen tied as the league’s top scorer with Carolina’s Brian Shriver, both with eight goals.
“We had to press the game and I think we did a great job and the energy from the guys certainly came from the heart," said coach Tim Hankinson, who close the season with five straight victories after a poor start. “We wanted to finish this spring season on a high note and I think the fans saw a great one. We had some performances that were really gutsy and then played to the strength of our game and that led to great results.”
Next for the Scorpions: an interesting game against Tigres, one of the most popular teams in Mexico’s First Division (and former team of midfielder Javier Saavedra) Saturday at Toyota Field. Buy tickets here.
If the Scorpions had won only one of the five games they lost or tied in the early season, they would be champions today. Instead, they must now focus on the Fall season. But the taste they left in fans' mouth is more sweet than bitter: they came back from the bottom, won five straight, and closed the season with a convincing victory against a team that, coming in, was considered the best in the league. Not bad for a team that had to start from scratch after some of the top players in 2012 left the organization. The Scorpions aren't Barcelona and they are not always pleasing to the eye. But in America's Second Division, they remain a tough team to beat and, yes, one of the firm candidates to win the next round.
Did you miss it? Here's the full game.