Atlanta, Ga. (June 22, 2013) – The Atlanta Silverbacks fell out of first place in the NASL standings with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Tampa Rowdies Saturday night in front of 5,711 fans at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
Two penalty kicks early in the second half gave the Rowdies the advantage before Silverbacks midfielder Pablo Cruz answered with a curling free kick to make it 2-1. Despite numerous chances for the Silverbacks at the end, the score held up, dropping the Silverbacks to second place.
“If you give a team two goals in any league, it’s very difficult to come back from,” said Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes. “We might have played well as far as the game is concerned, but we didn’t play smart and that is when the mistakes came.”
Haynes made no changes from the starting lineup that defeated the Fort Lauderdale Strikers the week before, with the exception being midfielder Pablo Cruz starting in place of the suspended Danny Barrera.
The early part of the first half was largely dominated by the Silverbacks, who forced Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo into a number of important saves. Forward Ruben Luna was the first to test him, taking advantage of a turnover by Rowdies defender Takuya Yamada, but Restrepo stood tall. Midfielders Borfor Carr and Pablo Cruz had similar luck, seeing their efforts blocked away by the former University of Virginia goalkeeper.
The visitors picked things up later in the half, however, with Keith Savage serving as the first Rowdies player to call Silverbacks goalkeeper Joe Nasco into action. Minutes later, midfielder Shane Hill powered a low shot towards goal that a diving Nasco had to grab at the last instant.
While the first half didn’t have any shortage of action, the second half stole the show. The Rowdies’ momentum from the latter part of the first half carried them forward early in the second half, with forward Georgi Hristov earning a penalty kick in the 49th minute. Silverbacks defender Beto Navarro brought the Bulgarian down in the penalty area, and he subsequently converted the kick to make it 1-0.
Just nine minutes later, referee Fotis Bazakos was pointing to the Atlanta penalty spot again – this time for a handball on a Silverbacks defender. Forward Mike Ambersley was the one to step up the second time, and his shot met the net just as Hristov’s did, making it 2-0 Rowdies.
The Silverbacks wouldn’t go away, however, and it was Cruz bringing his team and the standing room only crowd back into the game. The Pasadena, California native curled a beautiful free kick over the Rowdies wall in the 62nd minute, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
The home team took over the game after Cruz’s goal, creating numerous chances that forced Restrepo into serious action. None of the opportunities managed to find the net, though, and the Silverbacks dropped to second place in the NASL standings behind the Carolina RailHawks, who pulled off another late-game comeback against Minnesota United to beat them 3-2.
“All credit to Atlanta, who really pressed hard, but I thought we came out in the second half and played very brightly,” said Rowdies Head Coach Ricky Hill. “I have to give our players credit for sticking with it and getting three points in the end.”
The Silverbacks and RailHawks will face off next Saturday for an all-important game at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The Silverbacks sit two points behind the RailHawks with two games to play, making next weekend’s clash a massive one. To watch the game live online, visit atlantasilverbacksfc.com.