On the heels of their best performance of the NASL Fall Season, the Atlanta Silverbacks will kick off a two-game road stint, starting with a stop in Fort Lauderdale to take on the Strikers this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Lockhart Stadium.
Last weekend’s 3-1 win over Minnesota United FC was surely a confidence booster for the Silverbacks, who have struggled to score goals during the fall season. The attack exploded against Minnesota United, however, with midfielder Danny Barrera and forwards Ruben Luna and Pedro Mendes all finding the net in front of a sellout crowd.
The much-needed three points vaulted the Silverbacks from sixth to third place in the NASL Fall Season standings, and the win represented the team’s third in a row at home and third in a row against Minnesota United, who they had struggled against in their first two NASL seasons.
Momentum aside, the Silverbacks still trail the first-place New York Cosmos by eight points, as it’s looking more and more likely that the NASL newcomers will be the ones joining the Silverbacks in the Soccer Bowl on November 9 in Atlanta. Only three games remain in the regular season schedule, meaning only a complete breakdown by the Cosmos would allow other teams, such as the second-place Tampa Bay Rowdies, a chance to sneak into the championship game picture.
The Silverbacks attention won’t be on the Cosmos or Rowdies this weekend, but rather the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who they will face on Saturday night. The Strikers are reenergized under new head coach Gunter Kronsteiner. The club only gathered eight points during the NASL Spring Season, making their 14 points this fall look like a vast improvement already.
After going on a five-game unbeaten streak that included three straight wins in August, the Strikers have cooled off, though. Kronsteiner’s team has dropped three of their last four games, halting some of the momentum they built up earlier this fall season.
Unlike the Silverbacks, who earned a comprehensive win last weekend, the Strikers are coming into Saturday’s matchup following a loss. The Strikers fell, 2-1, at the hands of the Rowdies, who grabbed a win in front of their home fans thanks to a late penalty from midfielder Luke Mulholland.
On the bright side, Strikers forward Martin Nuñez has scored in each of the team’s last two games, including a 2-1 home win over the Rowdies on October 5. The team can also look back positively on their last encounter with the Silverbacks – a 1-0 win at Atlanta Silverbacks Park on August 24.
Speaking of 1-0 wins, the Silverbacks earned one of those the last time they visited Lockhart Stadium. Head Coach Brian Haynes’ side overcame a red card to Danny Barrera early in the second half, eventually earning a win in the dying moments. Midfielder Horace James was hauled down in the penalty area in stoppage time, setting the stage for midfielder Richard Menjivar to coolly dispatch a penalty kick to snatch all three points.
A pair of forwards with ties to MLS side FC Dallas should have a big impact on this Saturday’s game. Silverbacks forward Ruben Luna, who made over 26 league appearances for FC Dallas from 2010-2012, and Strikers forward Bradlee Baladez, who is currently on loan from FC Dallas, both enter this weekend’s action coming off recent goals. Luna struck last week against Minnesota United, while Baladez netted the winner in the Strikers’ win over the Rowdies on October 5.
All three Silverbacks-Strikers matchups in 2013 have been shutouts – two of them in the Silverbacks’ favor. The Silverbacks would like to add another one to this season’s tally, as they look to enter November’s Soccer Bowl in top form. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and 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. Click here for directions to the pub.