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NASL Weekend Recap: Scorpions Win Regular Season Title, Playoff Matchups Set

2012 September 24
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by Gerry Wittmann

The first year San Antonio Scorpions celebrate their 2012 NASL Regular Season Championship, finishing the season with a record of 13-7-8.

The last weekend of NASL regular season play saw the expansion San Antonio Scorpions finish the regular season with the best record in the league on a weekend where all four matches ended in draws. On Saturday, the Atlanta Silverbacks continued their improved play, finishing out the season with a 1-1 draw in Puerto Rico, while the Carolina RailHawks and the Tampa Bay Rowdies played to a scoreless draw at WakeMed Soccer Park.  On Sunday afternoon FC Edmonton rallied late for two goals to draw with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers while the regular season champion Scorpions ended their season with a 1-1 draw with the Minnesota Stars.

San Antonio Scorpions 1-1 Minnesota Stars FC

The San Antonio Scorpions finished off their regular season with a 13-8-7 record, as they finished the regular season in first place with 47 points. Tim Hankinson’s Scorpions also finished with a goal differential of +19, almost three times as much as the league’s second best team in goal differential, Puerto Rico, who were a +7 for the year.

Scorpions forward Pablo Campos capped off a great season with his 20th goal in the eighth minute of the match as he won the league’s scoring title. His shot from near the penalty spot beat a charging Mitch Hildebrandt, the Stars’ backup goalkeeper. Hildebrandt was making his second consecutive start for Manny Lagos’ side.

The Stars got their equalizer in the 69th minute, when player-coach Kevin Friedland knocked in an attempted clearance by the Scorpions’ defense. Lagos rested many of his starters, while Hankinson went with his regular lineup.

“Both teams are preparing for the playoffs, so I was disappointed with our display in the first half,” Stars head coach Manny Lagos said after the game, “but I thought our performance in the second half was much better, much more indicative of the kind of soccer we’ve played all year.”  The NASL defending champion Stars finished with a 8-9-11 mark, five points ahead of the Silverbacks for the league’s last playoff spot.

For a full match report see Andrew Arellano’s earlier post.

Puerto Rico Islanders 1-1 Atlanta Silverbacks

The Atlanta Silverbacks ended the season in a positive manner, as they extended their unbeaten streak to five games Saturday in Bayamon against the Islanders, although their good play came too late to earn a playoff spot. The Islanders finished in third place with an 11-8-9 mark.

The Silverbacks were first on the scoreboard, when midfielder Danny Barrera, one of the players brought in by interim coach Eric Wynalda, unleashed a long shot in the 25th minute that beat Islanders backup goalkeeper Cody Laurendi. The Islanders’ Hector Ramos, who missed a great chance late in the first half, helped get the Islanders’ equalizer when his shot off the crossbar rebounded to teammate Justin Fojo, who shot past Atlanta goalkeeper Eric Ati. The game ended 1-1 with the Islanders having a slight edge in shots, 12-10.

While the Silverbacks’ season is over, the turnaround the latter third of the season bodes well for the franchise. The Silverbacks lost only once in their final eight games of the season, demonstrating a much improved defense under coach Brian Haynes.

Islanders coach Adrian Whitbread rested several of his starters in preparation for the Islanders’ quarterfinal match next Sunday at Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel against the Minnesota Stars.

Carolina RailHawks 0-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies 

A crowd of over 7,300 were on hand at WakeMed Soccer Park Saturday to see the RailHawks close out their regular season on a rather flat note, as they played a scoreless draw with the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The result left the Rowdies in second place for the season, and gave the regular season title to the San Antonio Scorpions before they played their match Sunday against the Minnesota Stars.

Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill left a couple of his key players, including Mike Ambersley and Luke Mulholland, back in Tampa but otherwise fielded a full-strength side while Carolina coach Colin Clarke rested many of his regulars prior to next Saturday’s quarterfinal match against Fort Lauderdale. Each team fielded its regular goalkeepers, Ray Burse and Jeff Attinella, in a match where both earned clean sheets. Each team took 13 shots during the match.

FC Edmonton 2-2 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

FC Edmonton’s Lance Parker makes an acrobatic save as teammate Paul Hamilton looks on. Photo by Tony Lewis.

FC Edmonton came back with two very late goals to draw with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-2 in front of 1,392 fans at Clarke Stadium Sunday afternoon. The Eddies ended the season in last place with a 5-10-13 record, while the Strikers ended the season at 9-9-10 to take fifth place, one point ahead of the Minnesota Stars.

Daryl Shore’s Strikers were the first to draw blood in Edmonton when player-coach Abe Thompson converted a 12th minute penalty kick following a Kevin Hatchi foul. Thompson’s goal, his fourth of the season, remained the only number on the scoreboard until the 78th minute. Thompson played provider with a through ball to young striker Aly Hassan, who notched his sixth of the season shooting over Edmonton goalkeeper Lance Parker.

But Harry Sinkgraven’s Eddies showed some character, coming back with two late goals to earn a point. Croatian-born Elvir Gigolaj, 20, who grew up in London, Ontario, pulled a goal back just before injury time with a strong shot that beat Strikers’ backup keeper David Martin. Gigolaj was a surprise starter, having spent most of the season with the Eddies’ reserve squad. Fellow striker Paul Craig found the equalizer three minutes into stoppage time to end the Eddies’ season on something of a bright note, particularly in a week that saw NASL Commissioner David Downs visit Edmonton to discuss stadium issues and community support for the team.

For the Strikers and Coach Shore, giving up two late goals didn’t feel good. “It was disappointing on our end because we should have left here with three points, but give Edmonton credit for two good goals,” said Shore. “Getting ready for the playoffs, we felt we had a good week of practice and plan on having another good week coming up. We feel like we have a good group and you have to beat the best teams to make the finals, so it doesn’t matter who we play, we just hope to have a successful run like we did last year.”

17 Responses
  1. bullsear permalink
    September 24, 2012

    They have GOT to make that trophy bigger if they ever plan on using it again. It’s comical.

  2. John permalink
    September 24, 2012

    true story
    but NASL will tell you budget problems

  3. Fotbalist permalink
    September 24, 2012

    @ bullsear – I agree, it’s a funny looking trophy. In fact, I really hope that with the new format of a Spring Championship and a Fall Championship, they better make those trophies the MOST SHINY things in soccer.

  4. Fotbalist permalink
    September 24, 2012

    On a different note, San Antonio is looking like Chicago was in their inaugural MLS season. Good job Scorpions, PMI, and Hartman!

  5. September 24, 2012

    Ever seen how big the World Cup trophy is?

  6. September 24, 2012

    John, if it’s a true story that means you have a quotable source, correct? Who said what to whom?

    Anyway, the NASL spent just under $25K for last years NASL Soccer Bowl trophy. I would expect that this one wasn’t anywhere near as expensive. ;)

    BTW, does it look familiar? http://goo.gl/xPDrf

  7. Strikers Return permalink
    September 24, 2012

    @fotbalist – Honestly I hope they decide not to give out trophies other than the Soccer Bowl next year. “Half season” champ is a pretty lame title. If they keep this format for the next ten years and the Strikers win every single one of them you’ll still never once hear me refer to them as “champions” of anything unless they hoist the Soccer Bowl.

    More of what we’ve seen all year from the Strikers – games they should have won, they wind up with draws because they can’t close it out. I’m too lazy to go over the stats, but it would not surprise me in the least if the Strikers gave up more stoppage time goals this season than the rest of the league combined. Pathetic. Lack of mental toughness shows up huge in two places – closing out games with late leads, and winning on the road. Our mental toughness is easy to measure by these standards…

    Based on season results we probably couldn’t have asked for a better first round matchup. But then again the Railhawks are the league’s hottest team over the last month, so of course we drew them…away…. Not much to inspire confidence if you’re a Strikers fan outside of the fact that we seem to matchup well against Carolina.

  8. Soccer Boy permalink
    September 24, 2012

    @bullsear, I agree with you 100% regarding the trophy. I think my trophy for taking third place in my Cub Scout pack’s Pinewood Derby is bigger.

    San Antonio is a worthy recipient of the regular season championship. I think the only match they were really outplayed was their first match. In my opinion, Coach Hankinson deserves a lot of credit for the Scorpions success in the regular season. The MN Stars do deserve credit for holding Pablo Campos to one goal in four matches, and drawing three times–the one SA win being a very questionable result.

    Kudos do go out to Campos for tying Etienne Barbara’s regular season scoring record with 20 goals. I thought IMS would have made a bigger deal out of this accomplishment, as 20 goals is impressive no matter how you slice it. (Actually, it could have been 21, but for the “takedown” in the box against Campos several matches back against the Stars.)

    I guess we will have to wait and see if regular season success brings fame and fortune as the “second season” starts.

  9. September 24, 2012

    Soccer Boy, don’t worry about me posting an article about the guy you called a bum most of last season and the beginning of this season while I tried to convince you differently. My article about Campos is just as big as the NASL’s article is about him winning the Golden Boot. Patience my man, patience. All in good time.

  10. Fotbalist permalink
    September 24, 2012

    @ Strikers Return – I think you are a little harsh. I believe a team that is at the top of the table of 8 (or 9, or 10, ???) teams for a series of of home & away matches deserves respect. I believe we have to look at the Spring Championship & the Fall Championship as separate competitions.

    Also, you are too devoted a fan, to not support and promote your team for every single accomplishment, no matter how (seemingly) insignificant.

  11. Fotbalist permalink
    September 24, 2012

    That record-matching Golden Boot from Campos is impressive. I’m sure he’ll get his due attention, it looks as if he’ll be around for a couple of years. And I, for one, hope he stays for a long time.

  12. Strikers Return permalink
    September 25, 2012

    @fotbalist – No one will ever have doubt my support of the Strikers, you are spot on there. But being crowned a “half season champ” for a sixteen game “half schedule” in soccer is absurdly pathetic. It’s half a season, nothing has been “won!” Oh my God, I gotta stop now before I get going again on this stupid ass schedule thing and my blood pressure goes through the roof …………

  13. Fotbalist permalink
    September 25, 2012

    @ Strikers Return – you call it ‘half season’ and I call it ‘Spring Championship’….are you and I a classic example of the old “glass half full/half empty” saying. LOL! Here’s what I predict: In 2013 the Fort Lauderdale Strikers will be the Spring Champions thus securing the home field for the Soccer Bowl, at which point the faithful fan “Strikers Return” will be ecstatically overwhelmed with joy and he will extend an invitation to his IMS co-commenters to have a beer on him at the Soccer Bowl Championship game they will attend in his hometown. lol

  14. Dave permalink
    September 25, 2012

    @Fotbalist – No player should want to hang around D2. Hopefully Campos uses his time in D2 to once again get a shot against better competition in MLS. At 29, he doesn’t have much time left. Otherwise you just rot away in the minors with little attention and respect.

    And because of the Soccer Bowl, no one is going to care about being the Spring or Fall champ. It is very similar to minor league baseball with a split season. There is only one champ that matters. The Soccer Bowl winner. Just like the MLS Cup winner or USL-Pro Cup winner.

  15. Fotbalist permalink
    September 25, 2012

    @ Dave – Of course, I would be happy for Campos (or any other player) to take on every challenge, however, I don’t consider playing D2 is a bad thing that every player should try to get away from. Would it have been wise of David Beckham or Robbie Keane to stick around the Premiership or La Liga or Serie A at his age?! I think they get more playing time with lots more opportunities to shine in a new environment.

    You are right that many people will have a difficult time accepting the Spring and Fall Champion concepts, but it could turn around if we – the die hards – give it a good chance of succeeding. Prior to this we all had respect for the Mexican Apertura & Clausura (the new NASL system is not identical but similar). Why aren’t we willing to give it a fair chance in the US for the NASL? I, for one, am looking forward to it.

  16. yankiboy permalink
    September 25, 2012

    I’d just like to say for the record that I really, really hate the “Soccer Bowl” name for the championship. I wasn’t fond of it as a 11 year old kid and I think that it sounds really corny. That’s another part of the “legacy” (insert anguished moan and sigh here) that wish that we hadn’t “embraced”.

    I dig the trophy. I think that it crushes the old Soccer Bowl trophy.

  17. Casual Soccer Fan permalink
    September 29, 2012

    I agree with earlier comments – if they’re crowning regular season champs, they need to make bigger trophies. This thing is a bookend.

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