Following a decisive win in their season opener last weekend, the Atlanta Silverbacks will take their act on the road for the first time this season, visiting the defending league champions, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Al Lang Stadium.
Last Saturday, the Silverbacks kicked off their 2013 season against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, coming away with a 2-0 win in front of a sellout crowd at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. Goals from defender Beto Navarro and midfielder Danny Barrera in the final four minutes of play gave the Silverbacks all three points and an ideal start to their NASL Spring Season campaign.
Looking to improve on a rough away record last season, the Silverbacks will be riding some momentum going into their bout against the reigning NASL champions. The Rowdies are also entering the contest with confidence, coming off a shutout win of their own. Head Coach Ricky Hill’s side spoiled the San Antonio Scorpions’ first game in their new state-of-the-art facility, Toyota Field, earning a 2-0 victory.
The Silverbacks haven’t had the best of luck against the Rowdies since joining the NASL in 2011. They haven’t won against the Rowdies since July 2011, and in four matches last season, managed one loss and three draws. On Saturday, Head Coach Brian Haynes’ club will be looking for their first win ever at Al Lang Stadium.
The Rowdies return their main attacking threats from last season, but one of those players has been out due to injury to start this season. Forward Mike Ambersley, who has been a thorn in the side of the Silverbacks in past seasons, has been sidelined, forcing players like midfielder Luke Mulholland and newcomers Amani Walker and Georgi Hristov to step up.
Defender Takuya Yamada remains as the staple in the back for the Rowdies, and he is joined by fan favorites Frankie Sanfilippo and Andres Arango and veteran Jay Needham, who came over from the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Even though the Rowdies returned 14 players from last season’s championship team, they lost their standout goalkeeper, Jeff Attinella, to Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake. The Rowdies now turn to goalkeeper Andrew Fontein to replace Attinella. Fontein, despite being relatively inexperienced, had a good preseason and stepped up last week, earning a clean sheet in San Antonio.
With the Silverbacks off to a good start following their season-opening win, Saturday’s game at Al Lang Stadium should be a good one. Midfielders Danny Barrera and Richie Menjivar are poised for breakout seasons in the middle, while the center back pairing of Beto Navarro and Martyn Lancaster look to string together a second consecutive clean sheet.
In the attack, forwards Pedro Mendes and Ruben Luna will attempt to open their 2013 scoring accounts after putting in solid shifts against the Strikers last weekend.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium, and the game can be seen live online at atlantasilverbacksfc.com.