Before the season began, I wrote a brief Intro to our future rivals, the San Antonio Scorpions. Among reminders of my obvious disdain for San Antonio sports (or, more accurately, sport), I discussed how impressed I was with this particular franchise. Their philanthropic purpose, becoming the first ever sports franchise to fully support a charity (Morgan's Wonderland), is honorable to say the least, and their seeming transparency to fans was just super cool. Both of these, among other things, were reasons I thought SASFC had set itself up for a future in the MLS. But its easy to talk like a first-tier club. Its quite another to back it up during the wheelings and dealings of the season.
While local school children are off for the summer, populating the local swimming holes and setting up nickel lemonade stands (that's what kids do now, right?), the semester for American soccer is just begun. With their "historic" (not my word) win over the Dynamo last week, I thought it was a perfect time to review the players, fans, and front office with a little progress report. I'll start from the top down, and analyze the important contributions of each grading criteria to the MLS potential of SASFC.
Hit the jump to see if the FO, Squad, or Supporters section will need to get parental signatures for this Orange-tinted progress report.
The Front Office- accessibility to fans, representation of San Antonio culture, Recruitment of Talent
The President's blog on the SASFC website is a really modern addition to professional sports as a whole. Execs, from the top on down, discuss current events in San Antonio and in the franchise. More importantly, it gives fans a better view of who is running their club. Its something I think Cannetti has done pretty well through his twitter account over the past year, but SASFC have expanded it to an entire section on the website. With the start of the season, the posts have disappeared, and I would hope with all the recent activity in NASL and USOC, the president or FO might have something to add.
To make a name for themselves in a SA sports landscape currently dominated by the Spurs, SASFC has to become a microcosm of the San Antonio culture. One way of doing that is through the team itself, specifically the jerseys. This past week, the club released the 3rd kit for this season, a purple and silver tribute to their greater purpose - Morgan's Wonderland. While this may seem similar to Barcelona's Unicef promotion, thats because it is. But, because MW is the first fully accessible theme park, and a source of pride for San Antonians, it also takes the shape of representing the fan base they have. The club has pledged to make this 3rd kit a tribute to the SA culture and community, so it will be interesting to see what form it takes in the next few years.
The last point I looked at, and another means of representing the SA community, is the recruitment of talent. San Antonio, a largely hispanic culture, is already in love with soccer (El Tri, not the Yanks, mainly). But SASFC needed to feed off of that Tricolor-tinted love in its recruiting. Signing Javier Saavedra, former Mexico Nat, as a player and reserves team coach certainly starts that fad, but much more could be done in the coming years. Aside from Mexican talent, the signings of Pablo Campos (BRA) and Josue Soto brings MLS-sized talent to the team. Even before the season had begun, the front office put their players and Coach Hankinson in position to win.
Oh, and they've broken ground on a new soccer-specific stadium. That is about as proactive as you can be for a 1st year franchise. The FO is starting to look like that overachiever in your freshman English class, that would start writing the final paper two months in advance. That person always seemed to do well.
The Squad- On field product. That's all that really matters, right?
The next group is the team itself, where results in NASL and USOC are all that matters. While succeeding in NASL does not make movement to MLS a given, it does serve as a marker of a franchise that can organize quickly for success, something that would come in handy as an Expansion side. With a 4-4-1 (WTL) record, good for 3rd in the NASL, they are on the right track. Even better, they are only 1 point back on league-leading PR Islanders, albeit with a much poorer goal differential. What's great to see is that, aside from opening day jitters against PR, the Scorpions boast 8 points at home and 8 points away. Combine that with USOC wins against Laredo and...(ahem)...us, and you get a team that has exceeded expectations thus far. While they were eliminated by Charlotte a couple days ago in the USOC, their rookie run in the tournament is something to build on, and appreciate, by fans and neutrals alike (even though we in orange might not be too comfortable doing so).
At this point, the team is looking like that kid that came to your high school from some private school in France or something, and knew more about history than you did (thanks, America).
The Supporters- Attendance, Support of Team, Representation of San Antonio Culture
The final "course" in this progress report is the supporters section for the Scorpions. First stat of note is their boasting of the largest supporters group in Texas - the Crocketteers. With over 700 members, they pack the stadium for home games and the local Lion and Rose Pub for away games. The other groups, Alamo City Ultras (the first formed) and Bexar (pronounced Bear) County Casuals, add to a fervent supporters section for SASFC. The team's inclusion has resulted in NASL attendance averages skyrocketing.
My only complaint about the franchise, as of now, is the continued homophobic chants coming from the supporters of SASFC. During two matches in San Antonio, stadium goers have noted the offense. The Crocketteers have denied that the offensive chants are coming from them, and I assume it is not coming from an organized section. Nevertheless, this is a despicable part of soccer culture that must be removed from the equation entirely. This was a problem at Dynamo matches a few years ago when I was in attendance, but is something that I believe has disappeared in the following years. Calls to halt this activity to the NASL and SASFC execs by Gay4Soccer have not been met with formal responses.
Because of this, the SASFC fans are like that kid who was obviously intelligent, but hung out with the wrong group of friends. Like a Texas-sized Will Hunting. He had to leave his anchor-like friends behind to change the world, and so should the "good" supporters of SASFC.
Grade: F (fix the problem, and it would be an A)
So what can SASFC take from a DT writer's grades of their franchise? Not much, other than some points to work on over the next few months. As a whole, the franchise is well-meaning and eager like a freshman in high school. Unfortunately, they're also immature and vulgar, just like a freshman in high school. There is plenty to work on. That being said, the NASL title is not out of reach, and there is still a city full of hearts to win now that the geriatric Spurs were eliminated by OKC (I had to say it).