ATLANTA—It was a fitting ending to a wonderful career.
A boisterous crowd paid tribute to former Silverbacks and Olimpia great Alex Pineda-Chacon Saturday night at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
A weary Silverbacks side—having played an emotional 1-1 draw versus Portland in league play the night before—fell to Olimpia 1-0.
But it wasn't the score that was as important as the man who donned number 10 and the captain's armband, making his final appearance for both clubs.
“This was a very emotional night for me and my family,” Pineda said after the match as he signed autographs and posed for pictures with the throngs of fans who stayed late into the night for a moment with their hero. “To have people want to come out and see me play after all this time means more to me than I know how to say. I want to thank them, thank everyone, for their support.”
Alex Pineda-Chacon began his career with the heralded Olimpia side in 1998, winning a league title and CONCACAF Champions Cup titles his first season as a professional. He played for Olimpia from 1988-1993, and again from 1995-2001 after stints in Mexico and Peru. In 2001 he joined the Miami Fusion, where he earned MVP and golden boot honors. After another two years in MLS he joined the Silverbacks, where he played out his career, making 77 appearances before becoming an assistant coach.
“It was a little difficult playing again,” a visibly spent Pineda said after the match. “It has been a while since I played in such a difficult game. I guess I'm getting old.”
Pineda-Chacon managed a full 45 minutes marshaling the Silverbacks midfield before swapping the Silverback black for Olimpia white, patrolling the central midfield for the Honduran club for another half an hour before exiting the field to a lengthy and emotional standing ovation. Pineda saluted the fans as he slowly walked off the field, the intimate Silverbacks Park awash with flashbulbs.
The Silverbacks fielded a mix of regulars and substitutes to kick off the game, with Pineda in the middle of the park. Olimpia, which kicked off the match with a close approximation to its regular line-up controlled the run of play for the first 15 minutes of the match, but was unable to seriously threaten Felipe Quintero's goal, sailing chances well high and wide.
After settling down, the Silverbacks had the first real scoring opportunity in the 20th minute when Mac Kandji got in behind the Olimpia back line, beating goalkeeper Noel Valladares to the far post. But like the match the night before, luck was not on Kandji's side. His shot smacked off the goal post and away to safety.
Only three minutes later Jaime Rosales got the game's only goal, streaking to the near post on a Danilo Turcios corner kick, beating his marker, and nodding in the driven cross uncontested to give the visitors the lead.
Jason McLaughlin nearly pulled the Silverbacks level with five minutes to play in the half, running onto a lovely through ball from David Hayes but was stymied by a closing Valladares. Nathan Knox had a second chance, but put the rebound wide.
Seconds before the half time whistle, it looked like Olimpia had a second goal after Quintero could only partially save a driven shot from Wilmer Neal Velasquez. Rony Morales drilled home the rebound but, to the ire of the Olimpia faithful, ruled offside, the goal disallowed.
Entering the second half, and with Pineda swapped sides of the field, the Silverbacks managed to find some of the intensity it left on the field the night before. Scott Buete, Friday night's hero, nearly leveled the score, forcing second half goalkeeper Donis Escober to tip spectacularly over the crossbar after a streaking run by Buete.
With half an hour to play, again it was Escober, saving bravely on a Jerson Montiero header, set up by Martyn Lancaster—who was handed the captain's armband for the first time as a Silverback—off a Hayes corner kick.
With benches cleared, both teams had one final opportunity: Ryan McIntosh came up big, diving through a crowded goal area to parry a loose ball to safety, and Escober handled a driven shot from Kevin Barrow.
Following the final whistle, both teams were hesitant to leave the field—as were the fans—savoring the pomp thrust upon Pineda, who, with his family at his side and a horde of media surrounding him, graciously signed autographs and posed for pictures with players from both teams and fans alike for more than an hour after the final whistle.
“I am very happy I was able to share this with people from my country, and the people of Atlanta, where I have made my home,” Pineda said. “This is a night I will never forget.”