With the appointment of Alen Marcina as San Antonio FC Head Coach it’s time to look at what fans could expect coming in to the 2020 season. This can be done by looking back at his performances in three areas, results, tactics and formation over his career to see how he sets up his teams and what has been successful.
At the heart of it soccer is a results business so it’s important to look at this first, while it might not give much insight in to how the team will play under Marcina it can set some expectations. It’s something that was previously covered here in a discussion of potential coaches that turned out to be pretty accurate. Looking at his full results list makes some interesting reading.
2013 (San Antonio Scorpions – Interim): 2-1-6 (NASL – Last)
2014 (San Antonio Scorpions): 22-9-9 (NASL – Champions)
2015 (San Antonio Scorpions): 10-10-15 (NASL – 10th) – Fired at baggage claim
2016 (Rayo OKC): 7-7-7 (NASL – 8th & 3rd) – Resigned mid-season
2018 (Des Moines Menace): 13-2-1(PDL – Regular Season Champions & Conference Finals)
At the Scorpions Marcina was boom and bust, a bad start but landing the job full time and a title the following year gave him a lot of room in the second season but with more matches he proved to be weaker in results and ended up losing the job in infamous circumstances. Rayo OKC always seemed doomed to fail from a financial perspective and Marcina had enough and left with his team in a good position but with an overall far from stellar record. In the PDL with Des Moines Marcina won his second trophy, claiming the regular season title with an undefeated record. Unfortunately for Marcina his side went on to blow it in the playoffs at home, only winning in the first round on penalties before losing to Chicago FC United in the second round.
That makes it hard to distinguish how good Marcina really is, but the 2014 seems more of an anomaly than the standard. 2014 was a perfect storm, with only three genuinely good teams in the NASL that season of which the Scorpions was one. Des Moines is certainly an impressive performance but the PDL (now USL League Two) is a big step above that division, with a lot more competition. One thing the results at Des Moines shows is that he’s able to develop and work with young players which seems to be a big part of the plan at San Antonio FC which likely makes him a great fit for the club.
While in charge of the Scorpions the team managed a goal difference of +15 (130-115) which is a pretty decent return and reflects Marcina’s balance in how he plays, while leaning to attacking play it never gets too far out of control defensively. Marcina was much stronger at home with 23 of his 35 Scorpions wins coming at Toyota Field. A notable statistic in Marcina’s Scorpions years was the card count 150 yellows and 16 reds, through 86 games it’s a little under two yellows per game, which is maybe a little more than you’d expect to see, showing Marcina, who was a defender in his playing days, is happy to risk cards to stop conceding. Our stats index provides an attacking score and a defending score averaged out, it’s based on shooting accuracy and success, fouls drawn and conceeded and possession as the major guides. Under Marcina the Scorpions had a 1.51 attack index and a 1.34 defense index. That’s fairly balances as you’ll often see one much higher than the other and keeping both easily above one is significant, it shows they weren’t outplayed consistently but they also didn’t consistently dominate.
Reflecting defense the Scorpions managed 27 clean sheets through 86 games, that sounds like a bad return but keeping a clean sheet is actually pretty difficult especially in the NASL days and it’s unsurprising that he’s good at defense. The Scorpions also conceded 17 penalties in that span, which is hard to judge, 17 sounds like a big number but in 86 games which is only one every five matches so sounds fine.
Shooting wise the Scorpions managed a 44% shooting accuracy, which would be an improvement on San Antonio FC right now. The foul count is a big note of 914 which sounds like a lot but the team was fouled 977 times reflecting a bit of restraint on fouls. The Scorpions were caught offside 175 times but caught opponents offside 154 times.
What does all this mean for Marcina’s style, you could expect some level of attacking play but it won’t be the all out attack that some may have interpreted from Marcina’s early statements. An offside trap won’t be common and San Antonio FC may be vulnerable to a counter, that will partly depend on the formation, which is below.
With the Scorpions Marcina started with a 4-3-3, which he deviated from only once in the interim period moving to a 3-4-3 in a scoreless draw to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. With the job permanently Marcina kept the 4-3-3 in the early stages of the season before moving to a 4-4-2 (by way of some other formations for one match) for the fall season, it was firmly established at the 2-0 win against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on the road at the end of July. But with things getting tight, and hosting the Playoffs on the line, a bad run in August saw Marcina switch back to the trusted 4-3-3 resulting in just one loss in the last five matches culminating in the Soccerbowl win. 2015 saw a lot of squad changes to the Scorpions which meant a tactical rethink switching out some of the front men for a 4-5-1 or a 5-4-1 (with the odd adventure to the hilariously short in midfield 4-1-1-4), with a lone striker and the team struggling to get the ball through midfield that striker was isolated, it made goal scoring hard and made for a rough season.
With the NASL stats that are still available not containing the formation listing but from looking at the lineups Marcina seemed to go 4-4-2, with forarys in to the 4-3-3 that proved so successful with the Scorpions.
Des Moines Menace is even harder to find, the PDL didn’t make formation a required record for teams to publish on their match day information so this is only based on little information but the 4-3-3 seemed heavily featured.
What seems clear is that Marcina favors a 4-3-3 but that requires a strong base of attacking players but with most of an off-season to recruit Marcina will be responsible for that squad.