The Atlanta Silverbacks head down to St. Petersburg, Fla, on Saturday to take on the red-hot Tampa Bay Rowdies at 7:30 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium.
The Silverbacks (4-5-11) will be looking to send interim head coach Eric Wynalda out on a high note, as Saturday night’s contest will be his last on the bench before assistant coach Brian Haynes takes over the team. It will be a tall task, however, as the Rowdies (10-4-6) have won seven of their last nine games, and five in a row at home.
Head Coach Ricky Hill’s side is led by forward Mike Ambersley, who is tied for the league lead in assists with 8. The St. Louis native has also contributed five goals this season, just one behind team leader Daniel Antoniuk. The Rowdies did recently lose one of their key players, however, with midfielder Tsuyoshi Yoshitake leaving to sign with Yokohama FC Hong Kong on August 4. Yoshitake was enjoying a fine season for the Rowdies, with six goals and two assists to his name in 2012.
If momentum from the previous week is worth anything, the Silverbacks should be flying high going into this weekend’s matchup. Wynalda’s side is coming off a convincing 4-2 home win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on August 4, a performance that was one of the team’s best of the season.
The story over the course of the last two games for the Silverbacks has been the emergence of Brazilian twin brothers Pedro and Paulo Mendes. In two starts for the club, the duo has produced four goals and an assist, and for Pedro, last week’s two-goal performance against the Strikers was good enough to earn him NASL Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Although Pedro and Paulo came directly from the Rhode Island Reds of the NPSL, they each spent time with Cal FC during their historic U.S. Open Cup run earlier this year. Another player with the Cal FC connection is defender Mike Randolph, who was solid in his Silverbacks debut last week in Atlanta. The presence of Randolph, a former mainstay in the LA Galaxy lineup, is key for the Silverbacks, who just lost defender Andrew Duran to a knee injury.
The Rowdies are coming off a dramatic draw in Carolina, which saw them come back from a 3-1 deficit in the final minutes to earn a point against the Railhawks. Forward Luke Mulholland pulled the Rowdies within a goal in the 86th minute before defender Takuya Yamada eventually equalized to make it 3-3 in stoppage time.
While the Rowdies have been steady offensively this season, a big part of their success can be credited to goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, who leads the league in saves with 87. The second-year goalkeeper has come up big for the Rowdies during their recent hot streak, recording four shutouts in the last seven games.
Saturday’s contest will be the third of the season between the Silverbacks and Rowdies, and first at Al Lang Stadium. The Silverbacks earned a 1-1 draw against the Rowdies on April 21 and fell 3-2 on May 19 in Atlanta.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and the game can be seen live online at atlantasilverbacks.com/live.