Just two weeks ahead of the NASL Fall Season kickoff, the Atlanta Silverbacks defeated the Georgia Revolution, 2-1, in an exhibition game at RYSA Soccerplex in Conyers on Friday night.
On a humid evening, the Silverbacks entered the game looking to put their reserve players to the test as well as evaluate a few trialists who were hoping to secure a spot on the team. Nearly every first-team regular watched the game in street clothes, with the exception being defender Shane Moroney, who is still regaining fitness following a long injury spell during the NASL Spring Season.
It didn’t take long for the excitement to begin on Friday night, with the Revolution testing Silverbacks goalkeeper Cody Mizell almost instantly. A looping header looked destined for the corner of the net, but the former Clemson goalkeeper dove well to his left to palm the ball away in the 3rd minute.
It would take the Silverbacks a little time to get into the game, with the Revolution enjoying a good percentage of the possession early in the first half. The Silverbacks got their first look at goal through trialist Adrian Ruelas in the 26th minute. Midfielder Brandon Manzonelli beat a pair of Revolution defenders on the flank before crossing the ball to Ruelas in front of net. The former U.S. U-20 international got a head on Manzonelli’s cross, but his effort went straight into the hands of Revolution goalkeeper Zach Schultze.
Five minutes later, Manzonelli was involved again, combining well with midfielder Mark Withers. Capping off a nice attack, Withers found Manzonelli on the far side of the penalty area, but the St. Louis, Mo. native’s shot narrowly missed the top corner.
During the break, Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes made some significant changes to his lineup, and those substitutions would prove fruitful. Just six minutes into the second half, Schultz was picking the ball out of his net after a Brazilian trialist headed home a corner kick to give the Silverbacks a 1-0 lead.
The advantage would be short-lived, as the Revolution stormed back in the 54th minute. Forward Ibrahima Sissoko took advantage of a defensive breakdown by the Silverbacks to beat Mizell at the far post and tie the score at 1-1.
After the equalizer, the Silverbacks turned up the pressure and started to dominate the late stages of the game. Midfielder Scott Rojo nearly found the net in the 58th minute with an impressive volley, but the effort ended up flying just wide.
In the 73rd minute, Silverbacks trialist Omar Jasseh rounded Schultze to create an open-net opportunity for himself, but he elected to take his time with an effort on goal, allowing the goalkeeper to come from behind and block a would-be goal.
Another breakaway opportunity presented itself for the Silverbacks just minutes later – this time through Rojo. The midfielder was played in on goal, but Schultze played the role of hero again, coming up with another strong save.
The game felt like it had a third goal in it, and in extra time, it finally came. The first Silverbacks goal came from a Brazilian trialist and this time, the winner would come from a French trialist. The Silverbacks hopeful found some space at the top of the Revolution penalty area and blasted a shot into the top corner to clinch a 2-1 win.
The Silverbacks have one exhibition game remaining before they open up NASL Fall Season Play against Minnesota United FC on August 3 in Blaine, Minn. The Silverbacks will host Guatemalan side Club Xelaju MC this Saturday at Atlanta Silverbacks Park, with kick off set for 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available, and can be purchased over the phone at 404-969-4900 or online at atlantasilverbacksfc.com.