Going into last Saturday’s game against the San Antonio Scorpions, the Atlanta Silverbacks had tied four of their last five games, leaving them desperate to shake their streak of neutral results. The Silverbacks were able to do just that, topping the Scorpions, 2-1, at Atlanta Silverbacks Park – a win that gives the team momentum going into this Saturday’s road clash with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The Silverbacks and Rowdies will meet for the second time at Al Lang Stadium this season, and if Saturday’s game is anything like their first meeting in St. Petersburg, the fans in attendance better fasten their seatbelts. On April 20, the Silverbacks found themselves down 3-1 at halftime, only to score three unanswered goals to defeat the Rowdies and head back to Atlanta with an improbable three points.
The two teams enter this weekend on the heels of different results. On one hand, the Silverbacks were able to comfortably dispatch the last-place Scorpions at home, while the Rowdies are coming off an utterly disappointing 2-2 draw that saw them concede a last-minute equalizer to the Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C.
Just one point separates the Silverbacks and Rowdies in the NASL Fall Season table, meaning this Saturday’s clash could easily produce a shift in the standings. In fact, the fifth-place Silverbacks only trail the first-place New York Cosmos by two points, with the Rowdies, RailHawks, and Fort Lauderdale Strikers sandwiched in between in second, third, and fourth place respectively.
The Silverbacks get forward Pedro Mendes back on Saturday after the Brazilian was forced to sit out last weekend due to a red card suspension. Three of his five goals this season have come against the Rowdies, including a brace in the Silverbacks’ 4-3 win in April. Also scoring a pair of goals in that game was forward Ruben Luna, who would go on to score seven goals in all competitions for the Silverbacks during their NASL Spring Season Championship run.
Luna is coming off a solid performance last week. The Mexican’s goal and assist against the Scorpions were enough to earn him NASL Player of the Week honors. The Rowdies will surely have to keep an eye on both Luna and Mendes, as well as attacking midfielder Danny Barrera, who scored an impressive goal against the Scorpions last Saturday.
Saturday’s game is a clash of two streaks. The Silverbacks haven’t lost on the road since May, while the Rowdies are the only NASL team that has yet to lose this fall season. In fact, they haven’t lost in a franchise-record nine games.
The Rowdies have scored five goals in their last two games – both coming against the Carolina RailHawks. Ghanaian midfielder Evans Frimpong has scored in each of those games, with defender Jay Needham and forward Georgi Hristov also on target for head coach Ricky Hill’s side.
Hristov has scored nine league goals in 2013, which puts him third in the league. Two of the Bulgarian’s goals have come against the Silverbacks – both from the penalty spot. In fact, in the last two meetings against the Silverbacks, the Rowdies have only been able to find the net via the penalty spot. All three goals that the Silverbacks have conceded against the Rowdies at Atlanta Silverbacks Park this year came on penalty kicks.
The Rowdies were recently boosted by the signing of forward Lucky Mkosana, who joins the team on loan from the Harrisburg City Islanders of USL Pro. The Zimbabwe native and former Chicago Fire draft pick has scored 20 goals for the Islanders in just two seasons, giving the Rowdies a real scoring threat as they push for the final spot in NASL Soccer Bowl 2013, which will be played at Atlanta Silverbacks Park on November 9.
Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. The game can be seen live online at NASL.com/live. For fans that would like to watch the game together, the Silverbacks will be hosting a watch party at the Elder Tree Public House in East Atlanta Village. For directions to the Elder Tree Public House, click here.