The Atlanta Silverbacks have started their official preparation for the 2012 NASL season, kicking off training camp on Thursday morning at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
The 2012 Silverbacks roster features many new faces, several of which come to Atlanta from countries abroad.
A native of Honduras, midfielder DANILO TURCIOS holds more international caps than any other player in the NASL this season. Turcios’ 85 national team appearances, which include a pair of games in the 2010 World Cup, puts him fifth on Honduras’ all-time list. He comes to Atlanta from Honduran giants C.F. Olimpia, which happens to be the same club where Silverbacks Head Coach ALEX PINEDA CHACÓN spent 10 seasons as a player.
Hungarian goalkeeper DANIEL ILLYES brings several years of European professional experience to the Silverbacks, and will replace the primary starter for last year’s team, Jimmy Maurer, who signed with Chilean first division side Universidad de Concepción.
Joining the top scorer from last season, MATT HORTH, at the forward position is a trio of newcomers: Canadian STEPHEN ADEMOLU, Chilean REINALDO NAVIA, and Miami native DAVID SANTAMARIA. Horth’s total of eight goals last season was first among NASL rookies.
Speaking of goals, Ademolu and Navia have scored quite a few during their respective careers. Navia totaled nearly 100 goals during his Mexican playing career that included stops at two of the country’s most storied clubs: Club América and C.F. Monterrey. Ademolu scored over 40 goals during his seven-season stay in the top leagues of Sweden, Norway, and Lithuania. Santamaria comes to the Silverbacks on a season-long loan from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, where he started his professional career last year.
Two players may be considered newcomers this season, but 2012 won’t be the first year they’ve donned a Silverbacks uniform. Defender MARTYN LANCASTER and midfielder TONY MCMANUS will each be starting their second stints with the Silverbacks. Lancaster spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons in Atlanta, the first of which saw the Silverbacks make it all the way to the USL championship game. McManus was also on that team, and has a total of four seasons under his belt with the club. He is third on the Silverbacks all-time list for league appearances.
Last year’s team captain, LUCAS PAULINI, returns for another season with fellow midfielders RAPHAEL COX, CIARAN O’BRIEN, JORDAN DAVIS, FERNANDO GONZALEZ, and NICO COLALUCA.
O’Brien tallied four goals last season and also led the team in assists with five, while Davis was the only Silverbacks player to play in all 28 games last season. Cox and Paulini each scored two goals in 27 appearances, with Colaluca also scoring a goal after joining the team mid-season. Gonzalez returns after missing most of the season with a foot injury.
The final Silverbacks newcomer, Brazilian defender RILLA, comes to Atlanta after spending the majority of his nine-year professional career in his native country. The 6-foot-3 center back, who also played one season in Spain, is expected to add size and strength to a Silverbacks defense that conceded a league-high 63 goals in 2011.
Joining Lancaster and Rilla in defense are returners SHANE MORONEY, PATRICK ROBERTSON, KOHEI MATSUSHITA, TYLER RUTHVEN, and WILLIE HUNT.
Hunt and Ruthven each made 27 appearances in 2011, spending most of their time in central defense. Hunt tallied three goals last season, which was good for a tie for first among NASL defenders. Robertson returns after making 18 appearances last year as a utility defender, while Matsushita and Moroney come back after offseason injury rehabilitation.
The Silverbacks kick off their preseason schedule against the University of Alabama-Birmingham at 4 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. Admission is free to all preseason games. The Silverbacks open the regular season on April 7 against the San Antonio Scorpions. To purchase tickets, click here or call 404-969-4900.