After having their five-game unbeaten streak snapped last weekend against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the Atlanta Silverbacks will look to bounce back at home this Saturday against the defending NASL champions, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
Last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Strikers was a frustrating affair for the Silverbacks (1-2-1), who dominated the final 45 minutes of the game despite being down a man. Following a goal from Strikers midfielder Bradlee Baladez midway through the first half, Silverbacks midfielder Danny Barrera was sent off just before halftime, reducing the Silverbacks to 10 men.
Oddly enough, the red card to Barrera seemingly provided the Silverbacks with a spark, with the home team looking more like the side that was playing with a one-man advantage. Despite forcing Strikers goalkeeper Richard Sanchez into numerous saves late in the game, the Silverbacks couldn't find the net, ending up on the wrong side of a disappointing result against a Strikers team that has struggled mightily for the better part of the 2013 season.
Luckily for the Silverbacks, they will get another opportunity to get back to their winning ways in front of their loyal home fans, playing their second consecutive game at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. The Rowdies (1-3-0) aren’t exactly an easy opponent, though, having started the NASL Fall Season on a four-game unbeaten streak.
It has been an interesting start to the Fall Season for the Rowdies, who have only scored two goals in their last three games after netting a staggering seven against the San Antonio Scorpions on August 3.
Head Coach Ricky Hill’s side enters Saturday’s matchup in Atlanta on the heels of a 1-1 draw at home against FC Edmonton. Standout midfielder Luke Mulholland gave the Rowdies an early lead, only to see his goal cancelled out by a strike from FC Edmonton midfielder Chris Nurse, who also scored against the Silverbacks the week before.
With the draw, the Rowdies sit just one point ahead of the Silverbacks with six points through four games. The visitors will draw confidence from their last visit to Atlanta Silverbacks Park – a 2-1 win over the Silverbacks thanks to a pair of second-half penalty kicks.
For the Silverbacks, they will be desperate to get back on track following a Cinderella Spring Season that saw them finish as the champions and hosts of November’s NASL Soccer Bowl. Head Coach Brian Haynes’ club started the NASL Fall Season with a win away from home against Minnesota United FC, but they haven’t won since, picking up two draws and a loss.
The home team will have to do it without the services of Barrera, who leads the league in assists with seven. The former Cal FC standout will be unavailable due to a red card suspension, meaning midfielder Pablo Cruz will likely be the one to fill Barrera’s shoes. Cruz’s only league goal this season came against the Rowdies in that 2-1 loss, and it was a spectacular goal – a curling free kick from just under 25 yards out.
Along with Cruz, midfielder Horace James could be a key player for the Silverbacks on Saturday. The Jamaican netted his first goal with the club two weeks ago in Edmonton, and he followed that up with a quality performance against the Strikers last weekend. James’ speed and energy proved to be a headache for the Strikers’ back line – something Haynes hopes can continue this weekend against the Rowdies.
The Rowdies have made one major player move since the last time these two teams met, shipping forward Mike Ambersley to Minnesota United FC in exchange for Malta international and former NASL MVP Etienne Barbara. Both players have been thorns in the Silverbacks’ side in previous seasons, so their back line will have to keep close tabs on Barbara, who is known for being able to “make something out of nothing.”
The Silverbacks and Rowdies have met twice this season, with each team grabbing a victory at the other team’s home stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available over the phone at 404-969-4900 or online at atlantasilverbacksfc.com.