BAYAMÓN, PUERTO RICO – On a slippery pitch in Puerto Rico, the Atlanta Silverbacks tied the Puerto Rico Islanders tonight by a score of 1-1 at Juan Ramon Loubrel Stadium.
Both teams had much at stake in the match; the Islanders were fighting to win a first-round bye in the playoffs, along with the Commissioner’s Cup, given to the USL-1 regular season champion with a point, while Atlanta was simply looking to get into the playoff picture.
(Photo Caption: Atlanta goalkeeper Felipe Quintero helped preserve the tie with two diving saves in the final minutes of the match. Photo by Ron Holt).
The Islanders indeed clinched the Commisioner’s Cup, while Atlanta remains alive in the playoff hunt, though they no longer control their own destiny.
The first quality chance of the match came in the 19th minute for the Islanders. Puerto Rico forward Kendall Jagdeosingh dribbled down the left flank and fired a low shot that bounced just wide right of the Atlanta net.
The remainder of the first half was played out at a lethargic pace, as difficult field conditions made it challenging for both teams to maintain possession offensively and create scoring opportunities. Yet, the ‘Backs played a very physical first half, accumulating three yellow cards in the first 45 minutes of play.
Possession in the final third of the field hampered the ‘Backs throughout the game; Atlanta was forced to play more direct to try and reach the forwards and get behind the defense.
Consequently, it would take a set piece for the red-and-black to score. The ‘Backs would do just that in the 56th minute of play; Atlanta midfielder Josh Bolton sent in a long throw from the right flank of the field into the 18-yard box. After taking one bounce, Silverback midfielder Jason McLaughlin positioned himself properly and perfectly executed a bicycle kick into the right side of the net, past Islander goalkeeper Bill Gaudette.
However, Atlanta’s luck would be short-lived, as the Islanders would answer right back. The Islanders’ Cristian Arrieta received a ball from the right side of the pitch from Edwin Miranda, and slotted a ball past Quintero for the equalizer in the 62nd minute of play.
The ‘Backs would suffer another blow in the 75th minute, when defender Matt Bobo took down an Islander forward on a breakaway and was shown a straight red card. The Silverbacks would be forced to finish the game with just 10 men.
With just five minutes remaining in the match, Quintero made two spectacular saves for Atlanta, barely deflecting two very well struck balls from the Islanders. The saves helped preserve the tie and keep Atlanta in the playoff hunt, though the ‘Backs no longer control their own fate.
The Minnesota Thunder host the Montreal Impact on Saturday, September 20th. Should the Thunder win, they will earn a berth to the USL-1 postseason. The ‘Backs will need them to tie or lose, and then the Atlanta will need to win their final regular season match against the Miami FC Blues on Sunday, September 21st in Florida at Tropical Park Stadium to have a shot at the playoffs.
The Carolina RailHawks have also entered the playoff picture, with their win tonight against the Charleston Battery. Carolina will play again tomorrow night, when they host the Portland Timbers at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Around the League:
Carolina RailHawks 2, Charleston Battery 1
Game Summary: (Atlanta Silverbacks vs. Puerto Rico Islanders, September 19th, 2008)
ATL: Jason McLaughlin – 56’ (Josh Bolton)
PR: Cristian Arrieta – 62’ (Edwin Miranda)
Atlanta Starters: Felipe Quintero, David Hayes, Matt Bobo, Brent Sancho, Zach Kirby, Josh Bolton, Jason McLaughlin, Tony McManus, Greg Chevalier, Rodrigo Rios, Chris Mahaffey
Substitutions: Justin Moore for Brent Sancho (45’), Martyn Lancaster for Zach Kirby (45’), Scott Buete for Greg Chevalier (45’), Aaron Paye for Chris Mahaffey (74’), Duke Hashimoto for Rodrigo Rios (83’)
Cautions: Zach Kirby – 5’, Matt Bobo – 12’, Tony McManus 41’
Ejections: Matt Bobo – 75’
Puerto Rico Starters: Bill Gaudette, Cristian Arrieta, John Krause, Scott Jones, Nigel Henry, Osei Telesford, Noah Delgado, Edwin Miranda, Jonathan Steele, Josh Hansen, Kendall Jagdeosingh
Substitutions: Fabrice Noel for Kendall Jagdeosingh (55’)
Cautions: Osei Telesford – 29’
Weather: Rainy, 80F
Please note: All stats unofficial – refer to USLSoccer.com for official stats.