Following a dramatic comeback win on the road last weekend against the league’s defending champions, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the Atlanta Silverbacks return home on Saturday to play host to Minnesota United FC at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
Down 3-1 at halftime to the Rowdies, the Silverbacks scored three unanswered goals in the final 45 minutes to complete an improbable comeback and earn three crucial points away from home. Forwards Ruben Luna and Pedro Mendes each posted two-goal performances, helping the Silverbacks grab a memorable win and remain perfect on the season.
The Silverbacks are off to their first 2-0-0 start since joining the NASL in 2011, and will look to draw confidence from a win in St. Petersburg that snapped the Rowdies’ 14-game home unbeaten streak. Minnesota United FC won’t be any slouch of an opponent, though, bringing some momentum of their own to Atlanta this weekend.
Head Coach Manny Lagos’ side earned a convincing 2-0 win over FC Edmonton at the Metrodome last Saturday, and they’re coming to a place, Atlanta Silverbacks Park, that has been kind to them in past seasons. Minnesota United, formerly Minnesota Stars FC, hasn’t lost in Atlanta since joining the NASL in 2011.
Minnesota United, now under new ownership, turned heads during the offseason with several big player signings. Perhaps their biggest signing, forward Pablo Campos, will be available to play on Saturday for the first time this season after serving a two-game suspension that stemmed from a head-butting incident that occurred when he was playing as a member of the San Antonio Scorpions last year.
Two other big signings, midfielder Bryan Arguez and forward Etienne Barbara, have been dealing with injuries thus far this season. The participation of Arguez, a former member of Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact, and Barbara, the 2011 NASL Golden Boot winner, in Saturday’s game in Atlanta is far from a guarantee.
Minnesota United will surely have their hands full with this Silverbacks team, who have to be feeling on top of the world coming off the second half of a game where they absolutely destroyed the defense of the defending champions in their own backyard.
Luna and Mendes are playing with confidence in front of goal, while midfielders Danny Barrera, Borfor Carr, Richie Menjivar, and Milton Blanco are really starting to come together as a unit and demonstrate great creativity and ball control in the midfield. The Silverbacks lead the league in goals scored, despite having only played two games in the first three weeks of the season.
Defender Mike Randolph had an impressive showing against the Rowdies in his first action of 2013, starting in place of Shane Moroney. The former LA Galaxy defender put in a tidy shift last Saturday, particularly in the second half. It will be interesting to see if Head Coach Brian Haynes decides to slot him in again at left back or give the nod to Moroney, who had a solid game in the club’s season-opening win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on April 13.
The Silverbacks and Minnesota United (then the Stars) split the points last year over four games, with each team escaping the head-to-head series with a win and a draw. Both of the draws came at Atlanta Silverbacks Park last year – the first of which saw the Silverbacks surrender a 3-1 lead in the final four minutes of the game.
The Silverbacks and United will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park, and it’ll be Georgia Soccer Night at the stadium, with youth teams coming to the game from all over Metro Atlanta. To purchase tickets, call 404-969-4900 or visit atlantasilverbacksfc.com.