San Antonio Scorpions Outlast Fort Lauderdale Strikers for 1-0 Win
The SA Scorpions FC faced the Fort Lauderdale Strikers riding in on first place after a couple of strong performances on the road and a seven match unbeaten streak at home. The last meeting with the Strikers ended in a draw at Lockhart Stadium with two goals for both sides. Pablo Campos came into the match as the league’s leading scorer and looks poised to continue his strong form from last season.
The Strikers’ starting lineup was largely unchanged from their last match, but it was clear their game plan was offensive by nature, employing four forwards with only two midfielders in support in a 4-2-4 formation, somewhat reminiscent of the five forward lineup utilized by Tottenham Hotspur under Osvaldo Ardiles back in the day.
Fort Lauderdale was obviously looking to capitalize on the counterattack by shortening the distance between the defense and the attack. Although it was four forwards, clearly three of the forwards were lagging back at times making almost a 4-2-3-1 formation. It was a very organized attempt at pressuring early and often with long balls often bypassing the midfield to spur the attack.
Most of the pressure, however, was largely dealt with by the experienced Scorpions defense in the early stages of the game. Both teams had something to play for in terms of league standings so after the initial pressure was held the Scorpions began pushing back and Campos had a couple of ventures in and near the box that proved dangerous. The Strikers finally fouled the tall Brazilian, giving Denissen a free kick outside of Fort Lauderdale’s box. Denissen took an aggressive shot directly toward the goal mouth instead of crossing the ball, which caused Fort Lauderdale ‘keeper Matt Glaeser to punch the shot away at the last minute.
Campos uses his physicality to great effect at times and it often seems that officials have difficulty distinguishing a bonafide foul from Campos’ play-acting, according to Scorpions head coach Tim Hankinson. “I’ll have to analyze all the physical contacts that the referee felt he was diving and look at how many of those were actually where he was fouled; he had a difficult night that way,” said Hankinson.
Things started to progress for the Scorpions after that moment until Aaron Pitchkolan went down injured and had to be replaced by Fabian Kling. The injury didn’t seem to slow San Antonio down defensively, with players like Kling who can practically be inserted anywhere along the back line. “Going into the stretch run, guys are going to get dinged up, you’re gonna have to plug guys in and guys are gonna get minutes whether they like it or not and we’re gonna need them down the stretch,” said Scorpions centerback Greg Janicki.
The Scorpions’ most dangerous chance in the early stages happened in the 24th minute when Pablo Campos beat his defender on the lefthand side of the box. Campos elected not to shoot directly, however, and kindly passed to an oncoming Hans Denissen, but the pass was too far behind the Dutchman and a wide open opportunity came to nothing.
The Scorpions’ attack continued to be resilient with Walter Ramirez leading the way, taking advantage of the Strikers’ left back Scott Lorenz. Ramirez continually stretched the back line in wide positions, attacking the flank and cutting inward quite effectively for a couple of dangerous shots on goal.
“Walter, I thought, had some great runs down the left. Early in the game he was setting up shots from the right side, cutting in from the flank. I think that late in the game, some of his runs gave them (Fort Lauderdale) something to worry about,” said Hankinson.
In the 24th minute, Fort Lauderdale went down a man due to a red card to Andy Herron after fouling Scorpions defender Wes Knight from behind. The referee showing no tolerance early on sending a strong message after Herron clearly fouled Knight after he was dispossessed.
Campos and Denissen hooked up once again, right before the end of the half when both forwards broke toward the Fort Lauderdale goal and Denissen ended up with the ball alone against Glaeser, who caused Denissen to miss the initial shot which was sent just wide for a corner. Scorpions defender Greg Janicki ended up on the end of the resulting cross for a near miss on a technical header wrapping up the first half.
The second half started with a goal from substitute Esteban Bayona when a cross was sent in by Walter Ramirez and Bayona nicely headed the ball in the bottom left corner, just deflecting off Glaeser into the goal, but the Colombian was offside and the goal was called back to leave the two teams scoreless. Bayona would get on the end of a through ball a few minutes later but failed to capitalize.
The deadlock was broken, however, just under an hour at the 56th minute with a Campos run from a nice through ball from Ramirez. Campos collected the ball at the top of the eighteen and finished with confidence low and to the right of Glaeser.
Playing a man down and without their initial formation intact, Fort Lauderdale’s offense seemed disorganized in the second half. As the game wore on, the Strikers began rallying around the #10, Walter Restrepo. The midfielder’s movement was impressive throughout the match but in the latter stages looked like the only source of offense for the Strikers at times. Restrepo constantly got involved from midfield positions, from the flank, and being the outright attack through the center of the park. The Strikers could only manage five shots for the game but three of those came in the second half and Restrepo was largely responsible for getting his teammates in threatening positions.
Although San Antonio was playing with a man advantage for a great portion of the match, Fort Lauderdale was doing enough to put up a fight. Until during the 69th minute, when Scorpions captain Kevin Harmse found himself in the middle of a debate at midfield which ended in his ejection as he earned two straight yellow cards for dissent.
The two teams were even for the remainder of the match and the Strikers were encouraged to pick up the pressure but it proved to be too little too late. The game ended with the Scorpions victorious staying atop the league with a two-point advantage and Pablo Campos continues his lead as top scorer in the NASL with 11 goals for the season.
“Clearly they have some very dangerous players which always keeps the match alive, I think we bring a lot of pressure on ourselves by not finishing early chances. There have been some confrontations between these two teams and both teams were disciplined but it’s the referees job to let the players decide the outcomes. It’s very important to get these victories and losing three guys for next week we need to look at other players to step up,” said coach Hankinson.