The Atlanta Silverbacks will welcome the NASL’s defending champions, Minnesota Stars FC, to Atlanta Silverbacks Park for the first time this season on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Silverbacks (0-3-0) are coming off a dramatic 1-1 draw at home against the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday, with forward Reinaldo Navia earning the Silverbacks a point with a game-tying goal in the 87th minute. The Stars (1-2-0) are fresh off their first victory, which came on the road against FC Edmonton this past Sunday in a 4-3 thriller.
Missing five key players to injuries and red card suspensions last week, the Silverbacks struggled to find their way against the Rowdies. The team is far better off this week, however, with midfielder Danilo Turcios and defenders Rilla and Willie Hunt returning from their absences last game.
Navia proved to be the hero for the second straight week for the Silverbacks, scoring his third goal in just 188 minutes played this season. The Chilean has scored a pair of important goals in the team’s last two games, both proving to be game-tying goals that earned the team important points each time and keeping the Silverbacks undefeated on the season.
The Stars had somewhat of a coming-out party against a porous FC Edmonton defense on Sunday, scoring four goals after going scoreless in their first two games. Midfielders Neil Hlavaty and Kentaro Takada, defender Kyle Altman, and forward Devin Del Do were all on target, with the latter notching the game-winner in the closing seconds of the game.
Unfortunately for the Stars, Altman, the team’s captain, was sent off on Sunday for bringing down FC Edmonton’s Yashir Pinto during a clear goal-scoring opportunity. The veteran defender played every minute of every game last season, which means the Stars will have an unfamiliar absence in their back line in Atlanta on Saturday.
The Stars and Silverbacks have been similar in the attacking department this season, with each team putting up a four-goal performance in one game and experiencing relatively stagnant offense in their other two.
Stars goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel has recorded two shutouts this season, while Daniel Illyes of the Silverbacks holds one, which he recorded on opening night against the Scorpions.
The Silverbacks had an especially tough time with the defending-champion Stars last season, dropping all four contests by a combined score of 9-1. The Silverbacks will throw their new-look squad at a Stars team that returns virtually every key player from last year’s team in 2012.
The two teams will get to know each other very well over the next two weeks, with the Silverbacks traveling to NSC Stadium in Blaine, Minn. on Saturday, May 5 to face the Stars for the second straight game.
To purchase tickets for this weekend’s game at Atlanta Silverbacks Park, which will also double as Asian Heritage Night, click here or call 404-969-4900.