In a crucial game for their playoff hopes, the Atlanta Silverbacks host the Carolina RailHawks on Atlanta Chiefs Legacy Night this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
After a disappointing start to the season, the Silverbacks have vastly improved in recent weeks, taking 11 of their 19 total points in the last seven games with a 3-2-2 record. In Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes’ first official game in charge, the Silverbacks overcame a second-half red card to grind out a scoreless draw against defending champs Minnesota Stars FC last Saturday at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
The Silverbacks opponent on Saturday, the Carolina RailHawks, continue to have a flair for the dramatic, scoring a stoppage-time winner last weekend to beat the team chasing them in the standings, FC Edmonton, 3-2 at WakeMed Soccer Park. Ty Shipalane’s goal in the dying moments vaulted the RailHawks to 28 points, even with Minnesota Stars FC in the standings.
Leading the way for the visiting RailHawks is forward Nick Zimmerman, whose 12 goals are second only to former teammate and current San Antonio Scorpions forward Pablo Campos. Zimmerman, 25, has thrived since signing with the RailHawks in 2011. The Tampa native has tallied 18 goals in less than two seasons with the club, and has particularly hurt the Silverbacks over the last two years, recording a pair of multi-goal games.
Shipalane has been another standout player for the RailHawks, and it has primarily been in a “super-sub” role, coming off the bench. The South African has posted an astonishing four goals and four assists in the final 15 minutes of league and U.S. Open Cup games this season. The last time the RailHawks played the Silverbacks, Shipalane assisted on both goals in his team’s 2-1 win in Cary, N.C.
While the RailHawks offense has been one of the most explosive in the league at times, their defense has struggled, conceding 38 goals in 21 games. The Silverbacks have gone the other way with their defensive output. The team started the 2012 season with a porous back line, allowing over two goals per game, however, things have changed in the last month.
The Silverbacks have recorded three shutouts in their last seven games after only recording one through the first 15 games of the season. Much of the back line’s success can be attributed to the emergence of newcomers Chris Klute, Mike Randolph, and Beto Navarro – all midseason signings. Klute, an ultra-athletic outside back, was signed from the Silverbacks Reserves, while Randolph and Navarro were brought in by then-interim head coach Eric Wynalda from Cal FC.
The RailHawks, led by former FC Dallas and Puerto Rico Islanders Head Coach Colin Clarke, have taken two of the three games against the Silverbacks this year, earning a 2-1 win in Carolina and a 2-0 win in Atlanta. The pair of victories came after the two teams played to a wild, 4-4 draw at WakeMed Soccer Park in the second week of the season.
Tickets, which feature throwback pricing ($4-$8) for Atlanta Chiefs Legacy Night, are still available for Saturday night’s game. To purchase tickets, call 404-969-4900 or visit atlantasilverbacks.com.