After playing three of their last four NASL games at home, the Atlanta Silverbacks will take to the road on Saturday, visiting the last-place Fort Lauderdale Strikers at 7:30 p.m. at Lockhart Stadium.
The Silverbacks and FC Edmonton played to a 1-1 draw last weekend at Atlanta Silverbacks Park – a result that felt more like a loss for head coach Brian Haynes’ club. FC Edmonton midfielder Chris Nurse was sent off midway through the first half, handing the Silverbacks a massive advantage in front of their home fans, but a late goal from midfielder Neil Hlavaty earned the Canadians an unlikely share of the points.
The draw also meant the Silverbacks had to give up their spot atop the NASL standings, settling for a tie for second place behind the Carolina RailHawks, who topped the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2-1, in dramatic fashion. The Silverbacks are still in good shape, however, sitting with 14 total points and a game in hand over most of the other NASL teams.
Haynes and company also meet a struggling Fort Lauderdale Strikers team that they’ve historically had success against. The Silverbacks have won three straight against the Strikers, and have only dropped one game to them since April 2011. That one loss came the last time these two teams met at Lockhart Stadium – a 5-3 barnburner last July.
The Strikers enter Saturday night’s game with eight points through nine games. The team got out to an early 1-0 lead against Minnesota United FC last weekend, but a pair of goals from forward Pablo Campos downed the Strikers, sending them back to Fort Lauderdale with a loss.
One of the primary problems for the Strikers is their attack. They have only managed to score nine goals in nine games, and Scott Gordon, a defender, is tied for the team lead in goals with two. The Strikers will need to enter Saturday with a better offensive game plan if they’re planning on putting a dent into the Silverbacks’ net. The Silverbacks have only conceded one goal in their last three league games.
The Silverbacks enter a key stretch in their NASL Spring Season schedule – one that will surely put their squad to the test. Three of their final four games this season will come on the road, making Saturday’s tilt against the last-place Strikers an important one.
“Looking at our schedule – we think Saturday is just a must-win game,” said defender Mark Bloom. “We’re entering this game with the same mindset we’ve had all year. We absolutely need to win, and if we continue to believe in each other, we come out just fine.”
The Silverbacks and Strikers have already met once this season, with the former taking the season-opening contest 2-0. Goals from defender Beto Navarro and midfielder Danny Barrera earned the Silverbacks a win – a result they’ll be looking to duplicate on Saturday night in South Florida.
One player that could be key in the Silverbacks achieving a winning result is forward Ruben Luna, who leads the team in goals with six in all competitions. Luna has been kept off the score sheet in the team’s last two games, though, so he’ll be looking to get back on track this weekend.
“For me, it’s simple - with hard work comes goals,” Luna said. “I’m not going to sit here and guarantee you that I’m going to score on Saturday, but what I will tell you is that I’m going to work hard for my teammates and that’s all I can do.”
Luna and the Silverbacks will kick off against the Strikers at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night and the game can be seen live online at ustream.tv/ftlauderdalestrikers.