Posted on July 21, 2012 at 8:04 AM
Saturday, Jul 21 at 4:53 PM
After playing to 2-2 ties in their previous two meetings this season, the Scorpions and Fort Lauderdale Strikers will go at it again Saturday night.
The North American Soccer League teams are so evenly matched that it wouldn't be surprising if they deadlocked again when they clash at Heroes Stadium at 7:30.
"We've played them twice, home and away," Scorpions manager Tim Hankinson said. "Both games were 2-2. Both games came down to the final minute. We got the goal that tied it.
"I feel like these are two teams that are in a tug-rope contest. Both teams are pulling to see who can get the advantage. We've talked about that."
The Strikers (6-6-6) and Scorpions played last Saturday, almost three months after clashing for the first time this season.
San Antonio already has exceeded expectations as an expansion team, moving to the top of the NASL standings with 12 matches left in its regular season.
The Scorpions (8-3-5) lead the NASL standings with 29 points, just ahead of Puerto Rico (8-5-4, 28 points). Four other teams – Tampa Bay (8-6-3, 27), Minnesota (7-5-5, 26), Fort Lauderdale (24) and Carolina (5-5-6, 21) – are within striking distance of the leaders in the eight-team league.
Hankinson said the Scorpions are looking forward to playing Fort Lauderdale again.
"This is a four-game series," he said. "We're going into Game 3. Somebody's got to put in a big effort to push through and finally get the win. We've got three home games in a row. That's nine points. That is very vital with this tight race at the top to position ourselves for the playoffs, especially since we have more games away after this homestand."
Scorpions to celebrate 'San Antonio Thunder Night'
San Antonio hosts Carolina on July 28 and Puerto Rico on Aug. 5, before playing six of their last 10 matches on the road.
Hankinson said the Scorpions have embraced the challenges that come with being an expansion team.
"People equate expansion to losing for a couple of years," he said. "The fact that we are expansion and in first place gives a great credit to what the players have been committed to do here. All in all, I think we've put a group together that has good character and good football knowledge.
"And they want to win. So when you bring winners together, that fuels victories. We're just getting past the halfway mark. There's still a long way to go, but we certainly have to feel that the first half of the season was a successful run. Hopefully, we can replicate that in the second half."
The Scorpions will celebrate "San Antonio Thunder Night" against the Strikers, The Thunder were part of the original NASL in 1975 and 1976, and played their home matches at North East Stadium in their first season and at Alamo Stadium in their second.
Thirty-six years after the Thunder's final season, the Scorpions have found their niche on the San Antonio sports landscape. Hankinson, for one, has been heartened by the support the team has gotten.
Hartman and his 'Soccer for a Cause'
"To see the flags, the drums and the support clubs, it's starting to feel like it's a big event, not just a game," Hankinson said. "The soccer fan is very unique in the world. They sing. They chant. They're very active fans. You can go to an NFL game and once in a while something happens that they cheer, but most of the time, they're just quiet.
"The fanfare in San Antonio has been fantastic. The fans here, I think, show as much enthusiasm as the most absolute, best situations in major league, places like Seattle and Portland. They're knowledgeable fans. You see their comments on the Internet as they talk about the games and they're watching. They're opinionated and they're observing, and that's good to see."
The Scorpions are owned by San Antonian Gordon Hartman, a former real-estate developer who also owns Morgan's Wonderland, an amusement park for children and adults with special cognitive and physical needs. The park, which opened in April 2010, is named after Hartman's daughter, Morgan, a special-needs child.
Hartman has said he will use any profits from his soccer franchise to continue funding Morgan's Wonderland, calling it "Soccer for a Cause."
"I've been a part of a lot of ownerships at the professional level," Hankinson said. "Gordon is unique to any other that I've ever seen because he's not looking to pad his pocket. He's not looking to profit for himself. He's looking to share whatever we can bring financially into the picture to share it all with Morgan's Wonderland and put smiles on special-need kids.
"That kind of a vision you just don't see in the professional sports. The fact that he's willing to invest in this vision and how it complements Soccer for a Cause and Morgan's Wonderland is just an incredible thing."