First published on IMSoccer News
San Antonio Scorpions FC took on the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Heroes Stadium still holding on to the top spot in the NASL with 39 points before Sunday’s match against the Rowdies. The Scorpions came in to the contest four points ahead of the Rowdies who were tied on points with Puerto Rico. In their last meeting, the Rowdies came back to defeat the Scorpions 3-2 in June with two goals in the final minutes of the match.
Tampa Bay were without their game winner from their last meeting, Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, who made the move to Hong Kong club Yokohama FC. San Antonio Scorpions on the other hand were without Blake Wagner due to a one game suspension for card accumulation but Jonathan Greenfield would step in to replace him.
Coach Ricky Hill elected to come out with a 4-3-3 formation and pressed San Antonio early and enjoyed a great portion of the possession. The play was scrappy but Tampa Bay kept the ball in San Antonio’s half for the most part and did a good job managing the counterattack but the calmness would only last so long.
In the 7th minute, Walter Ramirez broke free on the left flank and Josue Soto slotted the ball through the defense to Ramirez. Ramirez gathered the ball just outside of the box and rifled a shot past Rowdies keeper Jeff Attinella for the game’s first of the night.
As the Rowdies attempted to recover from going down a goal early it proved to be more difficult to get anywhere near Daryl Sattler’s goal.
Soon after the first strike, Kevin Harmse collected the ball in transition and played a through ball for Pablo Campos in the 16th minute. Campos gained his composure and skillfully navigated his way around Attinella to finish off a fine run for the second goal, and his 17th of the season.
In the 19th minute Tampa Bay broke on a counter attack and forward Mike Ambersley worked his way free on the right flank to get a shot off but the attempt was never troubling for Sattler. The Rowdies managed only three shots in the first half and Sattler only had to make one save and has yet to concede a goal at Heroes Stadium in NASL competition.
“We have a solid foundation back there and it’s really nice because we are starting to defend a little more from the top and through the midfield. That’s what we need to do and there’s a reason we give up the fewest amount of goals in the league and that’s what we need to continue doing,” said Sattler.
In the 28th minute Pablo Campos slalomed his way through the Tampa Bay defense and as he made his way into the box, his touch was heavy and looked as if it was heading out of bounds. But the tall Brazilian’s presence was enough to force Attinella from his line to challenge. The resulting play ended up in a foul against Pablo Campos and a penalty was awarded to the Scorpions.
Luckily for Tampa Bay, Attinella was not the last defender, which saved him from being ejected, but his luck didn’t prevent Campos from finishing in the upper left corner to bring the score to three goals and securing his 18th of the season.
The attack would continue for the Scorpions a few minutes later when Hans Denissen was released on the right flank from a Josue Soto pass and crossed the ball into an open Kevin Harmse. Harmse was fouled in the process of redirecting the ball toward the goal and the Scorpions were awarded their second penalty. Campos stepped up to take the penalty but would prove to be unsuccessful as the shot was saved by Attinella for a small amount of redemption.
The first half ended with another Campos breakaway but the tricky forward was stopped before causing anymore damage. Just afterwards Campos was fouled again but just outside of the box for a free kick which was sent over the bar by Denissen.
The second half started with some changes to the Scorpions lineup with Pablo Campos subbed for new man Jeff Cunningham. Cunningham was making his second appearance since recently signing with the Scorpions, and assumed the loan target man role played so well in the first half by Campos.
The Scorpions pressed early in the second half but the game quickly turned into a testy situation with a rough foul to Wes Knight early in the half followed by a couple of cautions to Tampa Bay which ultimately led to a stand-off between the two teams. Tampa Bay forward Mike Ambersley and Scorpions keeper Daryl Sattler received cautions for their part respectively.
After the hour mark the game was growing more difficult for Tampa Bay but they were defending as much as they were attacking with five shots in the second half. Certainly they were working harder on the offensive end after making a few changes. Fafa Picault and Evans Frimpong came on for Tampa and injected some dangerous attacking presence causing the Scorpions defense to reorganize a few times. Tampa Bay’s back line were also putting in a solid defensive performance in the second half and was in large part responsible for keeping the scoreline from growing.
However, with the introduction of Esteban Bayona in the latter stages of the second half San Antonio’s attack came alive once again. Bayona and Cunningham seemed to work well with each other and the rookie, Bayona, tirelessly ran down every ball which relieved some of the pressure off of Cunningham who began taking his chances when they came.
But it would prove to be Bayona’s night when in stoppage time the Colombian gathered a pass from Denissen and sprinted toward goal, firing a shot past Attinella to score his sixth of the season. Bayona’s strike places him as the club’s second leading goal scorer.
The SA Scorpions FC end the night with 42 points and remain top of the league with a 12-6-4 record. More importantly, it clinches a playoff spot for the first year club.
The Scorpions will now play three straight matches on the road, beginning with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The road stretch should prove to be great preparation to finish out the season for the Bexar County club.