Pablo Campos, the second leading scorer from last season in the North American Soccer League (NASL), has signed to play the 2012 season with the San Antonio Scorpions FC.
Joining Campos on the club's roster will be former Houston Dynamo defender Ryan Cochrane, a member of two Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup teams, and two San Antonians, Matt Gold and Craig Hill.
The quartet will join other recent Scorpions signees for the Feb. 18 start of training camp at the STAR (South Texas Area Regional) Soccer Complex, which will be open to the public for workouts, said Scorpions Head Coach Tim Hankinson.
The Scorpions' first NASL competition will be against the Atlanta Silverbacks on April 7, while the team's home opener is set for 6 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at Heroes Stadium against the Puerto Rico Islanders. When the Scorpions take to the field, it will mark the first time in pro sports history that a team has been organized for the expressed purpose of benefitting a non-profit, namely Morgan's Wonderland, the world's first ultra-accessible theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind yet built for everyone to enjoy.
"During our recent tryouts in San Antonio and across the nation, we evaluated more than 600 players from 11 countries," Hankinson said. "From that impressive array of talent, we've been able to sign a great group of players, the majority with significant pro soccer experience. Our goal is to give our fans an exciting, hard-fought brand of soccer while, at the same time, to benefit Morgan's Wonderland and the special-needs community."
In addition to four new players, the Scorpions have a new youth soccer partner, the Lonestar Soccer Club of San Antonio, where Gold got his start as a youth soccer player.
"The entire Lonestar organization is very proud of Matt Gold," said Bryan Brown, Lonestar San Antonio President. "We are also very excited to enter into a partnership with the Scorpions to provide our players with unique experiences through clinics, player appearances and additional opportunities during Scorpions game days."
Campos, 28, finished second led in scoring this past season with 26 goals at the forward position for the NASL's Carolina Railhawks. The native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, began his amateur career at Fresno Pacific University and was named to the NAIA Men's All-America Team. He turned pro in 2007 with Fresno Fuego and also played for the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake, which won the MLS Cup in 2009.
Cochrane played three years of college soccer at Santa Clara University and earned second-team All American honors in 2003. The 28-year-old from Portland, Ore., turned pro the following year with the San Jose Earthquakes. He later competed for the Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution.
Native San Antonian Gold, a 23-year-old midfielder, played four years of college soccer for Ohio State University and also played for the Austin Aztex in the United Soccer League's Premier Development League. He made his pro debut last spring for MLS' Toronto FC.
A standout player at Reagan High School in San Antonio, Hill went on to star for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs as team captain and goalkeeper, accounting for 14 shutouts. FC Dallas selected him in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft, but his first pro experience will come with the Scorpions.
Scorpions President Michael Hitchcock said excitement in the community continues to grow as Scorpions teambuilding has accelerated.
"The Scorpions will compete for a community that's really eager to see soccer played at a high level and for Morgan's Wonderland," Hitchcock said. "We've seen tremendous interest in season-ticket sales and new sponsorships as the 2012 NASL season gets closer and closer."
San Antonio philanthropist Gordon Hartman led the effort to create Morgan's Wonderland in Northeast San Antonio so people of all ages with and without disabilities could come together in a safe, colorful, totally-wheelchair-accessible park for fun and understanding. Soon to begin its third year of operation, Morgan's Wonderland features more than 25 rides, playscapes and attractions spread out over 25 acres in what once was a limestone quarry.
Because anyone with a physical or cognitive special need is admitted free to Morgan's Wonderland, Hartman sought other revenue streams to help the park meet its financial obligations. Morgan's Wonderland opened in spring 2010 along with STAR Soccer, which conveys profits from the operation of 13 first-class playing fields to the theme park.
Sensing an opportunity to benefit Morgan's Wonderland for the long run, Hartman in fall 2010 secured an NASL franchise - one rung below MLS - and immediately launched Soccer for a Cause, a campaign to build community support for the new team. This included a name-the-team contest, a logo-design competition and an online vote of fans to select the Scorpions' jersey. Meanwhile, Nike became the first to sign up as a team sponsor.
Hartman also is moving forward with plans for a privately funded, 6,100-seat playing facility (that can be expanded to 18,000 seats) on land near STAR Soccer and ready for the 2013 season. In the interim, the Scorpions will play 2012 NASL home games in North East Independent School District's 11,000-seat Heroes Stadium across Thousand Oaks Drive from Morgan's Wonderland.
Key goals for the Scorpions include heightening interest in soccer, promoting physical fitness and boosting tourism, in addition to the primary goal of generating profits for Morgan's Wonderland, Hartman said.
"Morgan's Wonderland continues to exceed expectations, profoundly touching the lives of special-needs children and adults, their families and friends," Hartman said. "Thus far, we've welcomed more than 200,000 guests from all 50 states and more than 30 other countries. This level of activity requires substantial financial support in order to attract more guests and provide more services and programs to the special-needs community at no charge.
"Each and every day we continue to draw inspiration from all those with special needs who must deal with hard-to-imagine physical and cognitive challenges."
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