Atlanta, Ga. (August 24, 2013) – The Atlanta Silverbacks had their five-game unbeaten streak snapped on Saturday night, dropping a 1-0 result to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in front of 3,822 fans at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
The Silverbacks found themselves down a goal and a man at halftime on Saturday night, with Strikers forward Bradlee Baladez scoring a goal midway through the first half and Silverbacks midfielder Danny Barrera receiving his marching orders in first-half stoppage time.
“I thought we gave a good effort in the second half with our 10 players, however, things didn’t go our way tonight,” said Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes. “This is a team that was in last place and they came here and beat us, so now we have to make sure we regroup and get ready for Tampa.”
Less than a week after his team earned a hard-fought draw on the road against FC Edmonton, Haynes made some changes to his lineup. Defender Martyn Lancaster and midfielder Borfor Carr returned to the fold after recovering from injuries, while midfielder Alex Caceres marked his league debut with a start.
The Silverbacks, who will host the league’s championship game, NASL Soccer Bowl 2013, in November came out of the gate like a team simply waiting for the days to pass until the big game. Haynes’ club did little to trouble the visiting defense and didn’t really force Strikers goalkeeper Richard Sanchez into any noteworthy saves in the early going.
The breakthrough came in the 34th minute when defender Ivan Guerrero found a very loosely-marked Baladez, who easily headed his first NASL goal past Silverbacks goalkeeper Joe Nasco to give his team a 1-0 lead.
It went from bad to worse in first-half stoppage time when Barrera was sent off by referee Daniel Fitzgerald for an apparent elbow on an opposing player. It was the second time in as many games against the Strikers that Barrera has been shown a red card. The Silverbacks managed to win the first time around, but not on this occasion at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
The Silverbacks were energetic coming out of the locker room, putting immediate pressure on the visiting back line. Unfortunately, nothing came of the early pressure, and it was actually the Strikers who created the first scoring chance of the second half. Midfielder Mark Anderson got on the end of a Strikers’ counterattack, and only a massive save from Nasco could prevent the Englishman from doubling his team’s lead.
As the half wore on, though, the Silverbacks started to seem like the team playing with a one-man advantage. After Strikers forward Martin Nuñez was whistled for a hand ball in the 61st minute, Caceres nearly found Lancaster with a well-placed chip, but it ended up just out of the reach of the veteran defender.
Midfielder Horace James followed up his top-notch performance in Edmonton with another strong showing on Saturday night. The Jamaican would be the next player to come close to finding the Silverbacks an equalizer. The ball was played over the top to James, who was unable to poke the ball past Sanchez during a one-on-one opportunity.
James continued to wreak havoc on the Strikers’ defense, coming agonizingly close to tying the game in the 80th minute. Substitute midfielder Pablo Cruz sent a lofted cross into the penalty area, with James meeting it in the air and heading it inches wide of Sanchez’s post.
The second half continued to be all about the Silverbacks, and just before the game entered stoppage time, Sanchez provided the Silverbacks with their most glorious opportunity of the game. The Mexican was whistled for an infraction just seven yards from the goal, giving the Silverbacks an indirect free kick right at the spot of the foul.
Cruz touched the ball towards forward Pedro Mendes, who struck the ball into a wall that was set up across the enter goal line. Cruz then saw his follow-up header glance off the post before it was cleared away by the visiting defense. The play summed up the whole second half, with the Silverbacks coming just inches away from clinching a share of the points on numerous occasions.
For the Silverbacks, a result just wasn’t in the cards, with the Strikers holding on for their second straight road win under new head coach Gunter Kronsteiner. The Silverbacks remain home next Saturday when they host the Tampa Bay Rowdies at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. To purchase tickets, call 404-969-4900 or visit atlantasilverbacksfc.com.
SILVERBACKS LINEUP: GK Nasco, D Randolph, D Lancaster (Reiss – 67’), D Navarro, D Carr, M Blanco (Cruz – 65’), M Menjivar, M Caceres (Stisser – 74’), M James, M Barrera, F Mendes
STRIKERS LINEUP: GK Sanchez, D Antonijevic, D Stahl, D Guerrero, D Alves, M Guillaume, M Gonzalez, M Anderson (Chavez – 87’), M Baladez (Restrepo – 60’), F Nuñez (Paulo Jr. – 69’), F King