2014 was a memorable season in San Antonio. The San Antonio Scorpions brought home the NASL Fall Season Championship by a last second goal from captain Adrian Cann. That trophy was quickly followed up by the ultimate prize of the North American Soccer League, the NASL Championship trophy (aka the Soccer Bowl). It was the first soccer championship for the Alamo City, and they'll be looking to defend it in 2015. 2015 will be a new experience for the Scorpions as they will now have the target on their backs; how they deal with the pressure to win will be key to a repeat in 2015. #RedAndBlack2Back
Let's take a look at the transactions that have happened during the off-season.
Who is out?
Who is in?
then I think this year's midfield will be a strong part of the team.
Goalkeeper: Daryl Sattler
Defense: Stephen DeRoux, Julius James
Midfield: Rafael Castillo, Billy Forbes, Richard Menjivar, Josue Soto
Forwards: César Elizondo, Eric Hassli, Tomasz Zahorski
While San Antonio did lose some key defensive players from 2014, I believe that with the additions of Zea and Attakora, our defense should be pretty good. We did lose goalie Josh Saunders to MLS expansion side, NYCFC, but get Daryl Sattler back. Sattler was the NASL Golden Glove winner with SA back it the teams inaugural season. In the deeproot Funds Cup, Sattler was active and showed good movement and had total control over his box. We also have recent U.S. Men's National Team call-up, Jon Kempin, in goal as well. The net will be well protected.
San Antonio does brings back 2014 NASL assists leader, Billy Forbes. This is huge! He led the league last year in assists, with 7, and was instrumental in countless other attacks. He also tallied five goals of his own, none more important than the game-winner in the Soccer Bowl. He already assisted on a goal in the game against FC Dallas. Another huge returnee is Rafael Castillo. You might remember his bicycle kick that opened up the scoring in the Soccer Bowl last year. It made news...He brings experience & leadership to our squad. He will be a great mentor for all of our younger players. That goal gets to me every time...
The midfield should be the strength of this team. The ability to move the ball up the field quickly on counter-attacks will be critical to scoring more this year. Set-pieces should be a strength for this squad as well. And with attackers like Chávez, Elizondo, Palomeque, and now Cummings we should see a more potent attack than we did last year. Can one of these players become that "go-to" guy for goal scoring this year? This will be key to a repeat. Finishing seems to be troublesome for the Scorpions, so converting opportunities when they appear will be crucial.
Defense. The defense had its ups and downs during the pre-season. After the Hill Country Derby, I believe that our defense, specifically our set-piece defense, needs a lot of work. Tsiskaridze needs to be in the midfield, not as a full-back, and I think the guys just need to be together for longer to build the chemistry needed. Once the back line starts to gel, I think this group of players could turn out to be a formidable defense. I do think that during the Spring season, the defense will be a work in progress. Building team chemistry doesn't happen over night, but throughout the Spring, it should build. The talent is definitely there to have an impressive back line.
Familiarity. While we did keep a good portion of our key players, we are bringing in quite a few fresh faces. The experience that those players bring is tremendous, but they haven't had long to play with each other to develop a lot of team chemistry. This was pretty evident in the Hill Country Derby, so more time together will be a necessity.
Once they start to gel with one another, I think this team has the potential to be very special.
Potential starting XI:
Eduar Zea - Nana Attakora - Julius James - Stephen DeRoux
Zourab Tsiskaridze - Josue Soto
Marvin Chávez - Rafael Castillo - Billy Forbes
April 25th - AT Minnesota United
May 2nd - AT Jacksonville Armada
May 23rd - AT New York Cosmos
July 25th - vs Minnesota United
August 15th - AT New York Cosmos
October 10th - AT Indy Eleven
October 17th - AT Ottawa Fury
October 21st - AT Fort Lauderdale Strikers
October 24th - vs New York Cosmos
October 31st - AT Minnesota United
Toyota Field MUST be a fortress! The NASL this year looks to be very strong, and we cannot allow points to be dropped at home. In addition, every game against Minnesota United & the New York Cosmos will be big, especially the away games. If we can leave Blaine & Hempstead with results in the Spring, it will be a big step to claiming the Spring title. Unfortunately, we have to play both United and New York away twice this season while only hosting them once each; those will be crucial.
The month of October will be absolutely brutal as well; it's not the schedule I'd like to go into the post-season with. Three away games in the span of 11 days will be a tough, mental test for our squad, and ending the season vs New York & United could be a blessing in disguise. It would give us the opportunity to make up ground on them if it is the case that we are chasing them in the Fall. It could also be disastrous if we fall a part in those games.
This should be a very competitive year on the field in the NASL. New York is loaded with legend Raúl, Marcos Senna, & former Scorpion Wálter Restrepo; Minnesota has USMNT player, Miguel Ibarra, & 2014 NASL Golden Boot winner Christian Ramirez. My prediction is that Minnesota, New York, and San Antonio will be fighting for the top spot all season long. We also have to be aware of NASL newcomer, Jacksonville Armada FC. While I don't think they are a real threat to win the league, they will definitely make some noise and be troublesome to the three top contenders. Retooled Tampa Bay could be a surprise in the league as well. My prediction is that San Antonio comes out in the middle for the Spring season. We will continue to build chemistry but won't win it. We will gain some steam in the Fall, possibly take the Fall championship, but will be in the playoffs come November. How we play in October will tell us a lot about whether or not this squad can repeat. Although, with the new players added this year, I can also easily see the Scorpions being a middle-of-the-road team the entire year. What cannot happen is to get off to a losing start in either season as it may not be recoverable because of the talent in the league.
Do the Scorpions have a date with destiny to repeat as NASL Champions? I hope so, and it will be fun to watch!
Soccer On! -ASC
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