By MIKE GRAMAJO
It’s not just Major League Soccer clubs that are opening soccer-specific stadiums anymore.
The San Antonio Scorpions will open up their new stadium, named Toyota Field, when they host the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday night in NASL week two action. The 8,000 seat facility is across the street from their former stadium, and it’s expandable to 18,000 seats if the club ever makes the jump to MLS.
The Atlanta Silverbacks begin their 2013 NASL campaign when they host the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday in Atlanta Silverbacks Park. The Silverbacks made some noise in the offseason with two major signings. Looking to overcome last season’s seventh place finish, the club signed former Mexico U-20 forward and FC Dallas homegrown player Ruben Luna, as well as inking former Villarreal CF youth product midfielder Brandon Manzonelli to a contract.
One team that has been ever present in the lower divisions of U.S. soccer is the Carolina RailHawks, and they’ll have their home opener this weekend when FC Edmonton makes the long trip to Cary, NC.
Minnesota United FC, who were held to a 0-0 draw at home against San Antonio last Saturday, will have a bye-week going into this weekend.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s NASL match-ups:
San Antonio clash with Tampa Bay
San Antonio looks to avoid losing a home-opener for the second straight season, especially against the 2012 NASL Soccer Bowl champions.
The Scorpions started their season last week on the road when they played Minnesota United FC to a scoreless draw. Without last season’s top scorer Pablo Campos, the Texas side will have to find new players to replace the 20 goals that Campos took with him to Minnesota.
With what could possibly be the match-to-watch this weekend, the 2012 regular season champions will be looking to register their first win for the 2013 campaign. San Antonio, who lost their home opener last year, finished 3-0-1 against the eventual Soccer Bowl champions.
Ft. Lauderdale Visits Atlanta
Fort Lauderdale nearly won their first of the season last week, but had to settle for a draw. This time around, they’ll be itching to pick up that big first win, and a key three points on the road when they travel to face the Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday.
Atlanta have yet to record a home opening win since joining the NASL in 2011, having a 0-1-1 record during their home openings.
Matt Horth, who lead the Silverbacks in scoring last season with ten goals, signed with the New England Revolution of MLS during the offseason, meaning that the Georgia club will be leaning heavily on the new signing Luna for goals this season.
Strikers forward David Foley scored last week to give his side a lead, and nearly added another, making him a dangerous piece of the Strikers attack going forward.
Carolina RailHawks Host FC Edmonton
If the Carolina RailHawks want to build on their playoff run from last year, it will take a consistent Nick Zimmerman to guide the RailHawks.
Zimmerman, who tallied 15 goals for the RailHawks, came runner-up in the scoring chart last season. This season, he’ll have the help of Jamaican forward Nicholas Adderley up top and former Colorado Rapids midfielder Ciaran O’Brien, zipping passes through the midfield.
FC Edmonton faces another long trip to the east coast of the United States, but will lifted by the 1-1 draw last Saturday, and the overall play of midfielder Shaun Saiko.
What do you make of this week’s matches? Which games will you have your eye on? Excited to see Manzonelli playing in the States again?
Share your thoughts below.