The Atlanta Silverbacks and FC Edmonton played to a 1-1 draw Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 5,000 fans at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
The Silverbacks (4-2-2) went ahead in the 60th minute thanks to forward Brad Stisser’s first goal of the season, but a stunning free kick effort from FC Edmonton midfielder Neil Hlavaty gave the visitors a share of the points.
Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes made several changes from the lineup that recently forced extra time against MLS side Real Salt Lake in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Goalkeeper Eric Ati, defender Martyn Lancaster, and forward Ruben Luna returned to the starting lineup, while Haynes handed midfielder Stisser his first start of the season.
The Silverbacks, who were in first place going into the game, showed their intentions right out of the gate, with midfielder Danny Barrera sending in a dangerous cross that FC Edmonton goalkeeper Lance Parker could only punch away in the 2nd minute.
Scoring chances were few and far between early on, however, and the story of the first half was how physical the play was. Just minutes after Silverbacks midfielder Richie Menjivar received a yellow card for a late challenge, FC Edmonton midfielder Chris Nurse went into the book for a foul on Ati.
Nurse became the story of the first half in the 31st minute when he picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Silverbacks midfielder Borfor Carr. It was a clumsy tackle from the veteran Nurse, who had already been warned by the referee for another foul following his initial yellow card.
With FC Edmonton (2-3-3) down to 10 men, the game began to open up for the Silverbacks. The first evidence of that came in the 38th minute when Carr nearly put the home team ahead. A streaking Stisser played the ball across the goal for Carr, whose diving header fell just wide.
The Silverbacks entered the second half looking to exploit the one-man advantage, and they nearly achieved that to perfection less than 10 seconds in. Stisser was played in on goal and fired the ball into the net, but the assistant referee had his flag up for a hand ball. Stisser was subsequently booked for arguing with the official.
The forward’s frustration would turn to joy 15 minutes later, however, when the Silverbacks finally got the goal they had been pushing for. Menjivar slotted a pass through to defender Mark Bloom, who found Stisser in front for the finish. The goal, Stisser’s first of the season, made the score 1-0 in the 60th minute.
Just when the Silverbacks appeared to be in control of the game, FC Edmonton stormed back. Defender Beto Navarro committed a foul 25 yards from goal, giving the visitors a dangerous free kick opportunity. One chance was all FC Edmonton needed with Hlavaty burying a curling effort past a helpless Ati to make it 1-1 in the 70th minute.
The goal gave the visitors momentum, despite being down a man, and defender Albert Watson and forward Daryl Fordyce each saw great chances denied by Ati just minutes after Hlavaty’s strike.
The Silverbacks wouldn’t let FC Edmonton boss them around on their own field, however, and the home team nearly grabbed the lead back in the 81st minute. Defender Beto Navarro glanced a header off the crossbar from point blank range, bringing the Silverbacks agonizingly close to reclaiming the lead.
Each team saw scoring chances go begging in the final minutes, with Silverbacks forward Kellen Gulley and FC Edmonton Massimo Mirabelli having their shots saved by Parker and Ati respectively. The 1-1 score would hold and the teams would share the points.
Next up for the Silverbacks are the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Silverbacks will travel to south Florida to meet the Strikers on Saturday, June 16 at Lockhart Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game can be seen live online at atlantasilverbacksfc.com.