Scorpions president Gordon Hartman (in blue), the players, and daughter Morgan. (photo courtesy of sascorpions.com)
Nothing matters in Scorpions World. Another defeat, and there they were, signing autographs as if nothing had happened. It was the seasons’ last home game, but that same relaxation they showed while thanking the 7,702 fans is the same attitude they showed on the pitch: no urgency, no desperation, zero ideas on how to break the New York catenaccio that took over the field after the Cosmos scored the second goal.
It was the perfect goodbye from a totally unpredictable team: They nearly won one season, were at the bottom for most of this one, blew a three-goal lead on one game, then won three straight. And now this: a good first half, and loss of concentration in the second. After playing with an extra man for 16 minutes of the second half (a ridiculous straight-red card given to the Cosmos’ Dane Murphy for a foul that only deserved a yellow), the Scorpions lost to the Cosmos 2-1 Saturday at Toyota Field. The first half had ended 1-0 (another superb, early goal by Tomasz Zahorski), but two goals by the visiting team took them to the final against Atlanta Silverbacks (winners of the Spring season) Nov. 9 in Atlanta.
The Cosmos won fair and square, but they didn’t play like champions. After scoring two quick goals early in the second half (former Spanish international Marcos Senna in the 52nd minute and Stefan Dimitrov in the 54th), New York decided to give the ball to the Scorpions, who were unable to create any real danger for Cosmos’ goalie Kyle Reinish.
The only good thing about the Scorpions’ disastrous second season is that, from the charitable standpoint, 2013 has been a resounding success: almost $700,000 were raised to benefit Morgan’s Wonderland, a San Antonio amusement park specifically designed for children with special needs, but open to everyone. Yes, Scorpions president Gordon Hartman owns Morgan’s Wonderland, but that’s not where all the money is going.
“We’ve said from the launch of Soccer for a Cause that its purpose would be to produce revenue for the special-needs community, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that we’ve kept that promise,” said Hartman. “I’m also delighted that the check presentation occurred in front of our devoted fans and in the presence of the New York Cosmos, one of the iconic franchises in all of professional soccer.”
Hartman said the $622,559 donation includes $20,000 to help Oklahoma City tornado victims (raised at a summer friendly match with Oklahoma City FC) and $42,974 raised at a Scorpions special event for WINGS (Women Involved in Nurturing, Giving, Sharing), an organization that assists breast-cancer patients.
“The grand total will surely go higher because net profits from the Scorpions vs. Cosmos match and from the STAR (South Texas Area Regional) Soccer Complex, with its 13 first-class fields for league and tournament play, aren’t included," Hartman said. "When all is said and done, we believe Soccer for a Cause will have been the spark for approximately $1 million in benefits to the special-needs community and other worthy causes. And keep in mind, this is just the first year of operation for Toyota Field. We expect the cumulative total to really grow as years go by."
That’s all wonderful, and the Scorpions’ non-profit spirit should be cherished. But how much more could be raised if the Scorpions could put together a more competitive team? Is the budget devoted to the team roster enough to avoid another embarrassment in season three?
After being so close to winning the 2012 season, the Scorpions’ lost their best players and had to basically start from scratch. Will the same thing happen again in 2014? Will they be able to keep Zahorski, the best of the new players? Will the Pole, who scored nine goals in 12 games, opt to stay in SA or choose the Pablo Campos route, who not only screwed the Scorpions in the 2012 semifinals but left as soon as he got a better offer? Are there any good, available and affordable Mexican, Central or South American players who could add some element of surprise and magic to the team? (Both Cosmos assists came from South American players, by the way: Uruguay’s Guenzatti in the first and Venezuela’s Díaz in the second) Is there anything that could be done physically so that the Scorpions don’t lose steam in the games’ second halves?
Up until now, all the Scorpions' successes came thanks to individual play, scoring (especially Campos, Hans Denissen and Zahorski), but the moments of pure team soccer where were few. That wasn't necessarily bad: the Scorpions were a team of warriors who could score and defend. That's all gone now.
But maybe this is what we want. Maybe the Scorpions is not a real team. Maybe when Hartman says, “We’ve said from the launch of Soccer for a Cause that its purpose would be to produce revenue for the special-needs community” he really, really means that, and that putting a great team together is something the organization can live without. I just think we should be able to do both: put up a fight in the standings and go back to that indomitable spirit that the team showed in 2012. At least, make life miserable for a team like the Cosmos, who came here to win by any means necessary, and as soon as they scored the second goal forgot about playing and showed no interest of closing the deal, wasting time at any given chance and waiting for the final whistle knowing the referee would play the fool instead of showing a yellow card.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to see my home team at the very bottom of the standings with a goal differential of -8. That’s not how the Scorpions started, and that’s not the way to continue.
Having said all this, interim coach Alen Marcina (who took over from Tim Hankinson) did have a positive impact on the team and was able to win three straight home games. He should continue at least for the next season. Or maybe Javier Saavedra (if he chooses to retire) should be given a chance. He may not have coaching experience, but he does have ample time working under many top coaches in Mexico; if that’s not good enough for the U.S. second division, I don’t know what is.
And please: Zahorski needs some help in offense. The Scorpions need firepower and a talented midfielder, a creator, and one or two guys in defense. I would keep Vucko, but throughout the season (especially in the second halves) he seemed to me slow and out of shape. Still, he’s a good player and an asset for offensive and defensive corner kicks.
Just do the math: where do the most lethal players in Spain, Italy and England leagues come from? That’s where we should be looking for players also.
But I won't give up on these Scorpions. Some players have left, but we still have several survivors of that first great team. They all showed that they never stop fighting, but something's wrong now. Everything is much more difficult for the team, and it's not just that other teams got some great great players.
Bottom line: A great organization deserves a great team. The Scorpions did it in 2012, and can do it again in 2014.