San Antonio vs. Soccer: Thoughts on the World Cup friendly between Mexico and South Korea

courtesy backpagefootball.com

courtesy backpagefootball.com

San Antonio, TX – So the numbers came in for attendance at the Mexico vs. South Korea friendly World Cup warm up played at the Alamodome, Wednesday night.

According to reports the match drew a record 54,313 fans.

There were actually some South Korean supporters in attendance as well.  They were the small clusters of folks wearing red shirts and their inflatable rally sticks they banged together anytime S. Korea had a corner or free kick.  I think they might win the award for the cutest supporters in Brazil …. we will see!

One huge aspect of the game, I had thought would be an issue from the start, was the condition of the natural turf in the dome.  While I am not against playing soccer in a dome, I would expect that it would be on a natural surface where it involves two World Cup bound teams.  Soccer, deserves to be played on a natural grass surface, regardless.

Thankfully, San Antonio did the right thing by having natural grass installed for the match.

However, the way the commentator’s on ESPN made it seem, it was by the behest of the Mexican Federation representatives.  Sadly, this argument is still necessary in America and I’m not surprised it had to be requested for the Alamodome.  I’m sure the prospect of Mexico losing Oribe Peralta to some fake grass in San Antonio, Texas – was not too appealing to the federation.

The pitch, however, was in terrible conditions, again a point the ESPN commentators managed to spend quite a bit of time commenting about.  They used terms like, ‘rock solid’ and ‘bumpy’ to describe the field conditions.  The worst part was the visible seems from the newly laid turf on the field which can be as dangerous as playing on synthetic grass at times.  This was also expressed by Mexico manager, Miguel Herrera, before the game.

So although natural grass was laid, the issue of the field conditions wasn’t addressed properly.  I’d have to say, that was a fail, on the part of San Antonio and the Alamodome.

Also, with the attendance being over 50,000, I only question what that means for San Antonio.  While there is quite enough evidence to suggest San Antonio is a destination for Mexico supporters, I’d like to see the numbers of US born citizens who were in attendance.

From what I understand, there were quite a few.

Of course this is purely anecdotal, but from what I can tell through different social media outlets and comments on local news stories, quite a few San Antonio and Texas natives joined in the festivities.  You may not have been able to notice them, but they were there.

Courtesy Julian Castro via Facebook

Courtesy Julian Castro via Facebook

This is positive for San Antonio, but more importantly, positive for the mayor who continues to court MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

I think it needs to be restated, that people in San Antonio desire soccer and even for the casual fan, are interested in witnessing the spectacle.  I’d say good work on earning a World Cup friendly, but your next project will be to lure the MLS.

San Antonio Struggles To Find Soccer Identity

Pro soccer is on the way to San Antonio and long time soccer fans might be getting two teams to support.  But, will this cause a crisis in soccer identity?

The San Antonio Scorpions FC are scheduled to begin play in April later this year.  Their home opener will occur April 15th at Heroes Stadium on the Northeaset side of town against the Puerto Rico islanders.

Heroes Stadium holds 11,000 and is owned and operated by the Northeast Independent School District specifically for high school sports and athletics.  The Scorpions FC have plans to build a 6,000-seat stadium to begin hosting NASL league matches in 2013.

Meanwhile, Spurs Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the NBA San Antonio Spurs, have been locked in a battle with the Southside Independent School District over the eventual use of Alamo Stadium.  The SAISD recently allocated $35 million dollars from a bond to renovate Alamo Stadium with the focus on expanding the grounds to accommodate a FIFA regulation sized soccer field.

With a vote in favor of expanding the field and preserving the track for high school track and field, the door for SS&E has been opened to proceed with their plans to establish San Antonio’s second pro soccer franchise.  The SS&E pro soccer team will compete in the USL and will play their home games in the 23,000-seat Alamo Stadium.

If SS&E are successful in establishing a pro soccer team and the SA Scorpions FC build their new stadium, soccer supporters might face a dilemma.  Do they choose to remain loyal to the Spurs franchise or do they continue to support ‘soccer for a cause?’

For some clarity perhaps, one might want to ponder a few things before making any snap judgements.  Both teams will be competing in two different leagues considered by US Soccer as Division 2, one step removed from Major League Soccer.

The Scorpions will compete in the NASL (North American Soccer League) and SS&E will compete in the USL (United Soccer Leagues).  Both leagues have a significant history with each other and were once one league.

Although the USL has been operating for 30 years and boasts 12 teams expanding into San Antonio has long been talked about.  The NASL, however, has a more colorful past and will infamously be remembered for the wild ride it took us on in the ‘70s and bringing Pele to America.

The leagues these two teams compete in is a minor detail, although, it is a fact that the USL will offer more league matches per season than the NASL, which only has 9 teams including the Scorpions.

What I’m wondering is, which team will make an easier transition into the MLS?

By all indications the Scorpions FC and Gordon Hartman have all the intention in the world to move forward with establishing a pro soccer franchise in San Antonio.  They are very close to making that dream a reality.  So I ask, how much longer will it take for them to get into the MLS?

As much as I hate using school district funded stadiums for professional sports, when I make the comparison between organizations, it does appear that SS&E have taken the fast track to becoming an MLS expansion team.

Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, has already indicated that San Antonio is a viable option, recently stating that a minor league team “might be good prospects to virtually promote up into MLS.”  This coming from a man who we already have a rocky history with, given our last dealings with the commissioner.

That being said, SS&E’s final direction has yet to be discovered and a team has yet to be announced.  Should there be an announcement in the near future, I would like both clubs/organizations to remember the original focus of the supporters in San Antonio, and that is Major League Soccer.