(Photo by Elaine Carroll) In interim head coach Eric Wynalda’s first home game in charge, the Atlanta Silverbacks topped the second-place Puerto Rico Islanders, 2-1, Saturday night in front of 4,869 fans at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
Going for two wins in a row, the Silverbacks (3-5-9) fielded an almost-unchanged lineup from last weekend’s win in Minnesota. 10 starters from the shutout victory over the Stars took the field Saturday night in Atlanta, and it showed early on with some lively play. In the 5th minute, midfielder Tony McManus was played in on goal by defender Andrew Duran, but his low cross didn’t find anyone in front of the net before being cleared away.
The game slowed down midway through the opening half, but the Silverbacks nearly took the lead in the 38th minute. Midfielder Ciaran O’Brien sent a bending, 25-yard free kick towards goal, but Islanders goalkeeper Richard Martin was able to pin it against the post, barely keeping the ball out of the net.
The Silverbacks would take the lead less than a minute before halftime, though, and it was midfielder Nico Colaluca notching his first goal of the season. Martin could only palm away a cross from O’Brien, and the rebound fell favorably to Colaluca, who slotted home from close range.
Wynalda’s team seemed to have a swagger about them coming out of halftime, and it only took six minutes for them to nearly double their advantage. Defender Chris Klute sent an inviting cross into the penalty area, but defender Martyn Lancaster’s header glanced inches wide.
The pressure would pay off for the revitalized Silverbacks, however, and it was forward Matt Horth who would provide his team with their second goal. Defender Jose Burciaga, Jr. sent a high cross into the box, and Horth chested the ball down and fired a shot off the hands of Martin and into the back of the net to make the score 2-0 in the 63rd minute.
Despite the two-goal deficit, the Islanders (8-4-5) didn’t back down, and in the 86th minute, they would make the final minutes of the game interesting. Midfielder Gregory Richardson was played in on goal, and after a swift cutback, he bent a shot into the side netting to cut the Silverbacks lead to 2-1.
The Silverbacks defense stood tall in the final minutes, though, and did enough to kill off the five minutes of stoppage time to earn all three points for the second time in a row.
Next up for the Silverbacks is FC Edmonton, who comes to Atlanta Silverbacks Park next Saturday, July 21 for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. To purchase tickets, visit atlantasilverbacks.com or call 404-969-4900.
Atlanta Silverbacks Starting XI: Daniel Illyes- GK, Martyn Lancaster –D (Captain), Jose Burciaga, Jr. – D, Andrew Duran – D, Tony McManus – M, Chris Klute - M, Nico Colaluca – M, Borfor Carr – M (74’ – Reinaldo Navia), Ciaran O’Brien – M (81’ – Pablo Cruz), Matt Horth – F, Jahbari Willis - F (56‘ - Danny Barrera)
Puerto Rico Islanders Starting XI: Richard Martin- GK, Alexis Rivera–D (71’ - Cesar Garcia), Edson Edward - D, Anthony Vazquez - D, Jay Needham – D, Osei Telesford – M, Justin Fojo – M (59’ - Yaw Danso), Noah Delgado – M, Jarad Van Schaik - M, Gregory Ramos – F, Nicholas Addlery – F (30’ – Hector Ramos)
Stats:Shots (ATL 12. PRI 10), Fouls (ATL 18. PRI 16), Saves (ATL 3. PRI 4), Corners (ATL 3. PRI 4)