For the second offseason running, the Scorpions have had a serious makeover, with only a handful of players set to return to the club in 2014. San Antonio would love to erase the memory of their disappointing 2013 season by getting off to a hot start in the upcoming campaign. Their total additions in the offseason have been the most impressive of any club in the NASL, but their departure list is just as long. Head Coach Alen Marcina now has the squad that he wants built, so there are no excuses for not being a competitive club this season.
The Scorpions made plenty of headlines during the offseason for both on-field and off-field matters. They signed a bunch of former NASL Best XI and Team MVP players and were also constantly linked to the MLS chatter. The Scorpions rival the Cosmos in terms of attendance and have long been tipped to make the move to MLS one day. These rumors gained substance during the winter when the San Antonio mayor, Julian Castro, made his interest in MLS clear sparking a meeting between Don Garber and the Scorpions. It remains to be seen whether or not the Scorpions to MLS talk actually has some serious substance, but San Antonio certainly made headlines plenty of times in the offseason.
Alen Marcina took over last season after the Scorpions let Tim Hankinson go just four games into the 2013 Fall Season. The club got off to a slow start at the beginning of the Spring Season, but made an incredible run towards the end of the first half, playing so well that they gavethemselves a chance to be Spring Season Champions on the final day. Ultimately they fell just short, but their incredible winning streak tipped them for great success in the Fall Season. However they could not have started worse, being winless in their first four matches before Hankinson’s departure. Marcina inherited a squad that didn’t seem to play well as a team, and despite some improvement, the Scorpions finished last in the Fall standings.
Marcina will be out to prove a point in 2014. He was given reign to let players go and bring in players that fit hissystem, so the pressure is on to prove that he was the right man to permanently replace Hankinson.
Will Alen Marcina prove that he was the right choice asmanager after having a full offseason to prepare? Can the Scorpions compete in 2014 after a dismal 2013 season? I think the pressure is on for him to win early and win often. He needs to show that a full offseason and improvedpreseason have only strengthened his case as manager. Will the players be able to gel and become a team fast enough to compete out of the gates? We will see, but they have had a long training camp and preseason so far.
There are a lot. Seriously. The Scorpions made some impressive signings, but another reason for having so manykey additions is because they had so many spots to fill after the turnover. But credit to Marcina and his recruiting skills for poaching some very talented NASL players as well as bringing in some proven veterans.
Danny Barrera– Barrera was one of the better attacking midfielders in the NASL in 2013, helping lead the Silverbacks to the Spring Season title and Soccer Bowl. He scored four goals and recorded seven assists for Atlanta. He is young and he has even more untapped potential, but he will need to keep his temper in check as well. Barrera was red-carded a couple of times last season after he lost his head.
Adrian Cann– Cann is a Canadian international and former captain of Toronto FC in MLS. The central defender will replace the departed Luka Vucko and partner Greg Janicki at the back for the Scorpions. Cann has already beenawarded the captain’s armband for the club as well. And he used to model. Win.
Richie Menjivar – Menjivar was named to the NASL Best XI at the end of the season in 2013 and will be the engine room for the Scorpions. The play will flow through him in the middle and his box-to-box mentality will play into the Scorpions hand well. Menjivar is a regular for the El Salvador national side and played against the US in the Gold Cup last summer.
Eric Hassli – Hassli is a French forward who is not too far removed from being a designated player in MLS. He scored two of the more impressive goals in MLS history while with the Vancouver Whitecaps, and he is hoping to recover his form in San Antonio. If nothing else, he brings Champions League experience to the Scorpions upfront.
You can add Shaun Saiko, Walter Restrepo, Julius James and Sam Garza (Loan) as other strong additions to the Scorpions lineup. The team should be much deeper last year and will be a stronger attacking side from top to bottom.
Hans Denissen– Denissen led the Scorpions with 12 goals in 2013 and went on a ridiculous scoring streak towards the end of the Spring Season. He ventured north to sign with the New York Cosmos where he is still rehabbing a knee injury. Denissen will be missed in San Antonio on the field and in the community. His knack for scoring goals will be a welcome quality in New York.
Luka Vucko– Vucko was the only player in the NASL last season to play every minute of every match in the Spring and Fall Seasons. He was an iron man at the club and at 6’6 was an imposing figure in the box. Vucko returned to Croatia after the season and signed with a club there.
Kevin Harmse – Harmse was the captain and first player ever signed by the Scorpions. After his crotch shot to Pablo Campos in August, he was suspended for essentially the rest of his season and his Scorpions career came to an end. We haven’t seen anything about where he is now, but we would be surprised if he wasn’t taking some time off.
Potential Wild Card Player
Sainey Touray – Touray showed some impressive glimpses in 2013 and scored one of the goals of the season in the final round of play. He is right behind Tomasz Zahorski on the depth chart and should be a big tool off the bench for Marcina.
I think it has to be their midfield. Restrepo, Saiko, Menjivar, Barrera, Freddie Braun are all there just to name a few. They are stacked in the middle, which should create for some good competition. Their strikers, Zahorski, Touray, Hassli and Jonathan Fana aren’t bad either. The Scorpions should have an excellent attacking six in their 4-3-3 formation.
Most Glaring Weakness
Right now it looks like it is their goalkeeping situation. Jeremy Vuolo is a capable keeper in the NASL andperformed well last season, but looks suited to be the backup in 2014. The Scorpions brought in David Bingham on loan from the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS and he looks penciled in to be the starter. Bingham was not very impressive in the team’s preseason game against FC Dallas, but to be fair it was his debut for the club.
The Scorpions, on paper, have a very talented team that should compete in the NASL. Last season they had acompetitive team that should have competed in the NASL.See a trend? We all know what happened last season. That being said, I think the Scorpions have improved not just with talent but also with mentality. The players seem more focused and are saying all the right things in the media. The Scorpions absolutely have enough to compete for a postseason spot, but will need to prove some doubterswrong by actually clinching a berth.
The Scorpions will need to have a fast start however and not replicate what happened in the beginning of the 2013 season. San Antonio got off to such a slow start, that not even an unbelievable winning streak at the end of the Spring Season could get them to the top of the standings. They will need to improve and become a more consistent winner.
All in all, I see the Scorpions grabbing one of thepostseason spots. I don’t know how yet, but I think Marcina’s additions will pay off and the team will become one of the better attacking clubs. One thing is for certain;San Antonio has a lot to prove – to their fans, to the community and to MLS (if that’s really what they want). A big 2014 will go a long way for the South Texas club.
(image courtesy of NASL)