NASL Week Four: Scorpions Notch First Win, Strikers Take First Loss and Stars and Silverbacks Remain Undefeated
The fourth weekend of the NASL season saw the San Antonio Scorpions earn their first victory as they downed the Carolina RailHawks 1-0. In St. Petersburg, Florida, the Tampa Bay Rowdies continued their mastery of their down-state rivals, beating the Fort Lauderdale Strikers while in Atlanta the Minnesota Stars came back with a last gasp goal to gain a point in their 3-3 draw with the Silverbacks. The six teams combined for a lusty eleven goals in the three Saturday matches. FC Edmonton and Puerto Rico were idle.
Carolina RailHawks 0-1 San Antonio Scorpions
Coach Tim Hankinson’s expansion San Antonio Scorpions grabbed their first point of the young season last weekend in a 2-2 draw with the Strikers at Heroes Field. On an overcast evening in Cary, North Carolina, the Scorpions disappointed the 3,000 RailHawks’ supporters at WakeMed Soccer Park by defeating the hosts 1-0 on a late Kevin Harmse goal to earn their first NASL win.
A scoreless first half was highlighted by eleven shots but no goals were earned by either team. The Scorpions came close to staking a lead as the first 45 minutes concluded when Houston Dynamo loanee Josue Soto, with the Scorpions on a short-term loan, hit the RailHawks’ crossbar.
The second half provided the RailHawks with crossbar frustration too, as midfielder Cory Elenio hit the top of the frame with an effort just past the hour mark. Despite a total of 14 post-intermission shots totaled by both clubs, the game was scoreless into the 82nd minute, when Canadian international Harmse stepped into the spotlight. The versatile Scorpions captain has been slowed by injury the last few years, but played a give and go with Colombian teammate Esteban Bayona to score the first game-winner in Scorpions’ history. Two late opportunities by the RailHawks Ty Shipalane to equalize were squelched by offsides calls to leave the RailHawks winless on the season and the Scorpions with their first NASL victory. NASL veteran goalkeeper Daryl Sattler earned the clean sheet in his first Scorpions start, stopping four shots.
“It’s disappointing. The first half was even, but we showed a lot of character in the second half,” said RailHawks Head Coach Colin Clarke. “We got after them and attacked, we just needed the goal. We are moving in the right direction and just need to keep our heads up. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to get back on the field next Wednesday.” The RailHawks will host the Strikers Wednesday evening.
The Scorpions raised their record to 1-2-1, good enough for fifth spot in the NASL table. They return to Heroes Field next Saturday to host the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 3-1 Fort Lauderdale Strikers
A crowd of over 3,500 at Al Lang Stadium witnessed the Rowdies’ continued success against their Florida derby rivals as the Rowdies came away with a well-earned 3-1 win over the Strikers. The Rowdies now have four wins and a draw in their five encounters with the Strikers since the beginning of the 2011 season.
The Strikers did win their preseason matchup with the Rowdies and were coming off an exciting 3-2 midweek win over the Puerto Rico Islanders, but it was the Rowdies who struck first. Second year-pro Matt Clare, whose father John played for the Strikers in the original NASL, halted the Strikers’ momentum when he scored from a cross by midfielder Keith Savage in the 27th minute. Clare saw little playing time as a rookie last season under Coach Ricky Hill, but has earned more minutes in 2012. Hill mentioned the threat Clare poised in a pregame interview and was repaid with Clare’s first goal of the season.
The Rowdies held a 1-0 lead until just past the hour mark. Rowdies’ newcomer Luke Mulholland drew a foul in the box. Veteran forward Mike Ambersley converted the penalty to double the Rowdies’ lead, scoring his first goal of the season and fourth in five matches against the Strikers.
But Coach Daryl Shore’s Strikers had 20 shots in the match and finally got one past Rowdies’ goalkeeper Jeff Attinella as a late goal by Walter Restrepo halved their deficit to one goal, with the assist going to Strikers’ player/assistant coach Abe Thompson. Unfortunately it was too little too late, and D2 veteran Keith Savage added a third Rowdies’ goal from a feed by Ambersley to finalize the score at 3-1.
“They were just better than us tonight and got the result they deserved,” said Strikers Head Coach Daryl Shore. “We can’t make excuses and we have to regroup because we have another game on Wednesday.” The Rowdies are undefeated in three home games early on this NASL campaign, while the Strikers have only one point to show for two road matches thus far. They were without forward Andy Herron, who may miss ten weeks with a knee injury suffered midweek. Forward Aly Hassan, who scored three goals in that midweek match, had three shots Saturday night.
Atlanta Silverbacks 3-3 Minnesota Stars FC
A scoreless first half at Silverbacks Stadium turned into a six-goal barn-burner in the second half as the Stars’ Justin Davis blasted a lengthy left-footed shot in the last seconds of the match to snatch the first NASL victory away from Silverbacks’ new Head Coach Alex Pineda Chacon, disappointing over 4,100 fans expecting the Silverbacks to bag all three points. Instead, the Silverbacks played to a draw for the fourth time in four NASL games.
Watching the closing minutes of the game, the thought occurred that the Silverbacks were finally learning to close out a game successfully as they bled time off the clock by playing a ball into the right corner of Minnesota’s defense and then drawing a throw-in, but unfortunately for the home team they couldn’t keep enough late possession to earn the win. Chacon’s club had built their late 3-2 lead from two goals by the remarkable Chilean veteran Reinaldo Navia (his fourth and fifth of the season) and one from youngster David Santamaria,with the exciting Danilo Turcios providing two assists. Coach Manny Lagos’ Stars came back twice, on goals by attackers Amani Walker and Devin Del Do before Davis’ screamer equalized for the visitors.
The two clubs combined for 18 shots in the second half after totaling only nine in the first, and although Silverbacks’ fans undoubtedly felt frustration, they also saw some thrilling soccer. The two clubs will meet again next week as the Stars return home after a three-match road trip. For more on the excitement, see the more detailed recap of the match here.