In a Fourth Round showdown of two lower division professional clubs, the USL Pro Charlotte Eagles came away 2-1 overtime victors against the San Antonio Scorpions of the NASL, making them, in essence, champions of Texas, having won three consecutive rounds on the road in the Lone Star State. For that triumph, they now face a trip to California.
“We don’t really do anything different any game,” said Charlotte coach Mark Steffens, “We did the same when we took on Dallas, we have good attacking players and that’s what we do.”
Scorpions coach Tim Hankinson was disappointed after the match “we have a job to do and we have to get better at our finishing, you put yourself in a position to win the game again and again but we didn’t put them away.”
The Scorpions got off to a great start and had their first shot on target in the second minute as Hans Dennison set Pablo Campos free only for his shot to be well saved by Clint Irwin in the Eagles goal.
Charlotte were going for it after that initial chance, and they dominated the opening 15 minutes with several chances but could not put them away.
Estaban Bayona made a good run in the 16th minute and was able to find Pablo Campos on the penalty spot but his shot was well saved by Irwin.
In the 28th minute the Eagle’s dominance was finally rewarded as Nate Thornton weaved through the San Antonio defense and unleashed a powerful strike from just inside the penalty area to open the scoring.
Any thoughts of Charlotte sitting back after the opener were quickly put to bed as they continued to dominate the match, earning several corners.
A corner in the 36th minute should have doubled Charlotte’s lead, as the restart from Sean Bateau caused all kinds of problems in the San Antonio area but Daryl Sattler made a great save, despite getting no help from his defense.
The Scorpions countered well and some good work from Hans Dennison put Campos through but the tight did not allow his quality effort to squeeze inside the post, bouncing off the woodwork allowing Charlotte to clear.
In the 40th minute another chance fell to the Scorpions as Estaban Bayona sent in a ball for Dennisen who chose to pass instead of shoot allowing Charlotte to clear. Campos was up to his usual antics in first half stoppage time as his opportunity faded after trying to run at too many men instead of passing the ball.
The Scorpions had a free kick in stoppage time which allowed them to push several men forward and they had four good chances in quick succession but were denied by some good keeping from Irwin. keeping Charlotte 1-0 up at the break.
The Scorpions suffered a big blow at halftime as Hans Dennison was unable to shake off the hamstring injury that has been with him for several weeks.
The Scorpions started the second half the better side showing a big improvement on the first half effort, but again struggled to break through. Ramirez impressed in the 47th minute, making a good run but his space was just closed off killing the chance and allowing Charlotte to clear.
The Scorpions defense continued to fail to communicate which again allowed the Eagles chances, and if not for Daryl Sattler the match would have been over much sooner.
A free kick in the 62nd minute nearly caught the Eagles off guard when the goalkeeper came off his line and couldn’t get to it, but the Scorpions weren’t able to put it away.
Scorpions coach Tim Hankinson made a surprise substitution in the 63rd minute, bringing on Javier Saavedra for Walter Ramirez, who was looking dangerous throughout the night. He stunned many with the substitutions again in the 69th minute when he took off striker Estaban Bayona to bring on a defender Fabian Kling despite chasing the game.
The Scorpions had a great chance in the 75th minute when Jonathan Greenfield hit a powerful shot, which was very well saved by Irwin
From the resulting corner San Antonio found a goal. After the Eagles cleared the restart partially, it found Saavedra who sent in a cross that was headed by Campos tamely but Charlotte were unable to clear as it dribbled over the line.
Throughout the final ten minutes Charlotte were looking dangerous on the counter much like they had done in Dallas.
Missed opportunities in extra time came back to haunt the Scorpions as Charlotte countered well and earned a penalty after Ryan Cochrane tried to clear and the ball bobbled up and hit his hand. Mauricio Salles stepped up and hit the game-winning penalty.
For Charlotte it’s going to mean another road game when they take on Chivas USA.
“We are exhausted, but I think playing at the Home Depot will be a big enough boost for the guys,” said Steffens.
Charlotte’s run began with a 1-0 victory against the PDL El Paso Patriots in the Second Round and was highlighted by a stunning 2-0 win against FC Dallas last round. It is an amazing run for the club, considering it had only won on the road twice before. One came a year ago in an intra-state affair against PDL Carolina Dynamo.
The other, oddly, came in 2005 versus the El Paso Patriots. That Second Round win gave the Eagles a Third Round contest against upcoming opponent Chivas USA. Charlotte took the MLS side to the brink, falling 3-2 in overtime in only previous meeting with an MLS club in the tournament prior to last week’s win in Dallas.