The Atlanta Silverbacks may be hosting NASL Soccer Bowl 2013 in just over two weeks, but this weekend, their focus will be on putting their worst loss of the season behind them and getting a result against the Carolina RailHawks on Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park.
The Silverbacks left Fort Lauderdale battered and bruised last Saturday, falling to the Strikers, 6-2, at Lockhart Stadium. Defender Mike Randolph simultaneously received a red card and conceded a penalty kick early in the second half, reducing the Silverbacks to 10 men and putting them down 3-1. The game went from bad to worse as the second half wore on, with the Strikers taking full advantage of the Silverbacks’ depleted lineup.
Although head coach Brian Haynes’ team will play for the league championship on November 9, they have only one thing on their mind this weekend – a result against the RailHawks. The Silverbacks have never won a NASL league game at WakeMed Soccer Park, with their best result being a draw earlier this season.
The RailHawks have been strong against every opponent at home, not just the Silverbacks. In fact, head coach Colin Clarke’s side hasn’t lost a single game at home in 2013, including both the spring and fall seasons. They enter Saturday night’s matchup against the Silverbacks on the heels of their fifth win of the fall season – a 1-0 road win over Minnesota United FC at NSC Stadium.
Midfielder Enzo Martinez, who scored the winner against Minnesota United, and forward Brian Shriver, the team’s leading scorer, will need to be accounted for by a Silverbacks’ back line that conceded a season-high six goals last weekend. Without Randolph, who will be serving his red card suspension, the Silverbacks will need to have the defense step up.
Lost in the Silverbacks’ tough loss to the Strikers was another two goals by forwards Ruben Luna and Pedro Mendes. The two forwards have scored a combined five goals in their past five games, and are tied for the team lead in goals with eight apiece.
The Silverbacks have faired a lot better against the RailHawks this season than they have in previous years, picking up a win to go along with a pair of draws. The last time they visited WakeMed Soccer Park, they were minutes away from getting their first NASL road win there. A stoppage-time equalizer from Austin Da Luz cancelled out Silverbacks midfielder Bobby Reiss’ strike to clinch a share of the points.
While the RailHawks are out of Soccer Bowl contention, they will want to preserve their undefeated home record this season, ensuring a hotly-contested matchup on Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park. Speaking of the Soccer Bowl, the New York Cosmos can book their place in the game this weekend with a win over the San Antonio Scorpions at Toyota Field.
Kickoff at WakeMed Soccer Park is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be seen live online at NASL.com/live. For the fans that would like to watch the game together, the Silverbacks will be hosting a viewing party at the Elder Tree Public House in East Atlanta Village.