New sights, familiar faces and an unforgiving crossbar were the theme of the night as the San Antonio Scorpions went on the road to face Minnesota United FC in the first game for both teams in the 2013 NASL season.
In a game that appeared rife with the potential for goals, both teams were denied from breaking the deadlock, due to the strong and unforgiving structure holding together the netting.
“Pat Hannigan, you know, he had the broken leg last year, started the season as the starter until Daryl [Sattler] came in and he made great saves, but really the MVP of the night is the crossbar for both teams,” said Scorpions Head Coach Tim Hankinson following the game.
The crossbar was rattled twice in the match, once by a powerful header from Scorpions midfielder Edin Husic in the 64th minute, and another by a screaming strike from United forward Simone Bracalello in the 70th minute.
The two best opportunities of the game shook and rattled the crossbar, but the net remained lonely on this Saturday night, with both failing to put a number on the scoreboard.
Save the impermeable crossbar, the star of the night for the Scorpions was goaltender Patrick Hannigan, who parried a myriad of attempts throughout the game, including a diving save in the 69th minute to deny former Scorpion Aaron Pitchkolan from lifting Minnesota United FC to victory; the save required a full stretch from the Scorpions' keeper.
Hannigan will serve as the starter for the Scorpions this season in the stead of Daryl Satler, who left for Minnesota United FC in the offseason.
The Scorpions started the brighter of the two sides with new signing Ivan Milicevic registering the first shot on goal of the match in the seventh minute. San Antonio continued to pressure Minnesota's goal with Hans Denissen trying an ambitious chip but sending it just over the bar.
With little attack from Minnesota early on, the Scorpions continued to get themselves into attacking positions and earned a couple of free kicks in good positions; one of which forced a good save from Sattler after Walter Ramirez hit a low drive that snuck through the MUFC defensive wall.
Both keepers remained in solid form through the early stages of the game, with Hans Denissen and Walter Ramirez also putting in good shifts for the Scorpions in the first half of play.
Minnesota United beginning to round into form in the latter stages of the first half, finding success with short passes and quick movement. The Scorpions remained well organized in the backline with the size of Greg Janicki and Luka Vucko allowing the Scorpions to control any crosses that entered the attacking third.
The Scorpions defended well as a unit throughout the 90 minutes, despite the unfamiliar pairing in the central of defense of Greg Janicki and Luka Vucko. With Janicki and Ryan Cochrane, who retired this offseason, being so successful for the Scorpions last season, Hankinson was please with how the new pair started tonight.
"Ryan Cochrane was a very difficult player to replace with his experience," said Hankinson. We had to search the world to find one that had the experience of Luka. At 6'6 he has the feet of a playmaker, so he's a wonderful player to watch and he and Greg Janicki have really joined in getting to know each other in the preseason."
With the score knotted at nil-nil at the stroke of halftime, Hankinson called for the Scorpions to hold more possession in the second half.
"We created chances but both teams are defending well," Scorpions Head Coach Tim Hankinson said at the half. "Our possession has to improve and both teams are both feeling each other out."
To the chagrin of the coach, the Scorpions opened up the second half with steady possession and, in the 57th minute, Ivan Milicevic provided great delivery to Bryan Jordan in the MUFC box. Bryan Joran’s enusing shot hit the side netting, keeping the scoreline knotted at 0.
The Scorpions continued to retain the ball in the MUFC side of the pitch, with Walter Ramirez's low shot in the 60th minute forcing a fine save from Sattler.
In the 64th minute, Edin Husic hit the crossbar with a header following a Walter Ramirez free kick. Husic’s shot on goal elicited a collective gasp from the home fans at the Metrodome, the home venue for MUFC for the first part of the 2013 NASL season.
The United attacking triumvirate of Simone Bracalello, Miguel Ibarra and Aaron Pitchkolan looked lively as the second half progressed and began to raise questions at the back for the Scorpions.
A great diving save by Hannigan denied Pitchkolan in the 69th minute and a solid strike from Bracalello rattled off the crossbar.
The game ended in a 0-0 tie, with the Scorpions earning a hard fought, but well deserved, opening game draw.
The Scorpions will take their point earned into their home opener in the brand new Toyota Field on Saturday April 13th vs. the Tampa Bay Rowdies.