Aaron Pitchkolan and Amani Walker tussle for control of the ball in Sunday night’s regular season finale of the 2012 NASL season.
The San Antonio Scorpions drew 1-1 with the Minnesota Stars FC Sunday night with goals from Pablo Campos and Kevin Friedland respectively, for the last game of the regular season at Heroes Stadium in San Antonio, Texas. It was also the final regular season match of the 2012 NASL season as Edmonton and Fort Lauderdale had finished their game in Edmonton before the Scorpions and Stars kicked off.
This was the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between the Scorpions and Stars. In their last match on September 1st, both teams drew even.
The Scorpions earned the regular season championship on Saturday evening after the Rowdies failed to pick up a win against the Carolina RailHawks. The Stars end up in sixth place in the NASL standings and are set to travel to Bayamon to take on the Puerto Rico Islanders in the first round of the playoffs.
Both teams started with quality play but Campos didn’t take too long to add to his 2012 tally when he scored within the first ten minutes. After a free kick taken by San Antonio, the ball bounced off the Minnesota wall and rattled around in the box. Campos took advantage of a well placed through ball from Scorpions defender Ryan Cochrane, and poached his 20th of the season earning the Brazilian the Golden Boot award.
Both teams looked offensive through stretches of the first half. Wes Knight had some good wing play with Walter Ramirez and created some trouble for the Stars during periods. Minnesota’s offense looked well organized and continued to search for the equalizer but nothing could be managed as the half ended with only three shots, with only one on goal for the Stars who rested several of their starters including goalkeeper Matt VanOekel, with rookie Mitch Hildebrandt filling in.
The second half started with some spirited play from the Scorpions as they pressed early for second on the night. While the Stars looked to withstand the early pressure, the Stars continued to clog up the middle of the park making it difficult for San Antonio to control and dictate the tempo of the match.
A free kick was awarded to Minnesota in the 67th minute and the shot was saved by Sattler but the ball was not cleared from the box and the resulting play led to a sloppy equalizer by Minnesota’s Kevin Friedland. Minnesota continued the pressure, hustling on the defensive end, pressing through the midfield and causing the Scorpions to be unsettled for a stretch.
A second free kick was awarded to Minnesota when Ryan Cochrane was caught out, and Miguel Ibarra forced the defender to stretch for a foul. The initial shot found a break in the wall and the ball deflected into the path of Amani Walker who kneed the ball into the net but was flagged as offside.
Minnesota continued to press with great effort from Simone Bracalello and Walker up front and the club would not give up their fight for the win but the game drew to a close.
“It was a complicated game for both teams – not a ton to play for, but both teams obviously understood that they wanted to get ready for the playoffs,” said Minnesota Stars head coach Manny Lagos. “I thought the tone of the game was reflective of how the score went. I’ll give San Antonio the first couple of minutes of the second half and I thought we were a little bit off in our shape and how we were playing in the first half. I thought the response in the second half was a good tempo, we were working hard and battling.”
After the match the Scorpions were awarded the Regular Season Championship trophy by NASL Commissioner David Downs.
“To be the team standing at the top after 28 games, tells me that this is a true championship,” said San Antonio head coach Tim Hankinson after his team was awarded the trophy.
“We want to reinforce our defensive concept, offensively we have to keep our confidence going. We have to get our players in a rhythm, so we’ll be spending a lot of time in both boxes. Having two weeks gives you a lot of chances to really work with things and polish some of the ideas you have on what needs to be worked on,” said Hankinson on preparing during their two weeks until they face their next opponent.
The playoffs begin next weekend with two quarterfinal matches between the Carolina RailHawks and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at WakeMed Park on the 29th and the Puerto Rico Islanders face the Minnesota Stars on the 30th at Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel.
The two semifinals take place October 6th-7th with San Antonio and Tampa Bay taking on the winners from the quarterfinal matches in an aggregate home and away format.