With just a two-point lead over the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Carolina RailHawks, and Minnesota United FC going into their bye weekend, the Atlanta Silverbacks weren’t expecting to see themselves atop the North American Soccer League Standings when it was all said and done on Sunday night.
None of the clubs breathing down the Silverbacks’ neck managed a win, however, meaning the Silverbacks retained the league’s top spot despite not stepping onto the field this past weekend. The Rowdies played to a scoreless draw at FC Edmonton, the RailHawks tied the last-place Fort Lauderdale Strikers, and United FC was tripped up in San Antonio, losing 2-0 to the Scorpions.
Remaining atop the standings heading into their home game against fifth-place FC Edmonton on Saturday night presents the Silverbacks with a monumental opportunity. The Silverbacks have won two straight at home – both shutouts – and face an FC Edmonton side that hasn’t scored in their last two games. Not to mention head coach Colin Miller’s side will be making the always-exhausting trip from Edmonton to Atlanta, which comes out to about 4,600 miles round trip.
The two teams closest to the Silverbacks in the standings, the Rowdies and the RailHawks, will be battling it out this Saturday in Cary, N.C. Should those two teams draw and the Silverbacks manage a win, the distance between first and second could widen with just four weeks left to play in the NASL Spring Season.
Another highlight for the Silverbacks is the fact that the team was able to rest this week while the other teams played games. For most NASL teams, including the Silverbacks, the last few weeks have been busy due to the addition of U.S. Open Cup games to their schedules. The Silverbacks were able to relax this past week after playing four games in 10 days, while other teams had to press on.
“It was huge for us to get some time to rest and recover so that we could hit the ground running this week with recharged batteries,” said Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes. “The team knew that the time off wasn’t for letting loose, but rather for getting healthy and reenergized.”
First place is unchartered territory for a Silverbacks team that has struggled since joining the NASL in 2011. Under Haynes, though, the team has carried a different attitude and much different expectations.
“What I told the team is that we’re starting the second half of our spring season today,” Haynes said. “We ended up on top through the first half, but that doesn’t matter – we need to finish the season on top. Right now, we’re just taking it one game at a time and treating every game like it’s a playoff game.”
The Silverbacks and FC Edmonton kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night, and the game will be the nightcap of a doubleheader at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. The Atlanta Silverbacks Women will host the Carolina Elite Cobras at 4:30 p.m. to get Saturday’s festivities going. Tickets are available through the Silverbacks ticket office at 404-969-4900 or online at atlantasilverbacksfc.com.