After a much-needed bye week, the first-place Atlanta Silverbacks are back in action this Saturday, hosting FC Edmonton at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
The game presents the Silverbacks with a monumental opportunity to add to their lead in the NASL standings, and also get a little revenge against a FC Edmonton team that beat them handily several weeks back.
In their first bout, FC Edmonton gained a massive advantage after Silverbacks goalkeeper Joe Nasco was sent off for handling the ball outside the penalty area in the 21st minute. Playing with a one-man advantage for the better part of the game, FC Edmonton would capitalize, winning 3-0 thanks to a pair of goals from NASL Player of the Week Michael Cox and another from midfielder Daryl Fordyce.
It was a rough end to the Silverbacks’ two-game road trip at the time, but the team came back with a vengeance, ripping of two straight home wins – both of which were shutouts. The shutout victories over the Carolina RailHawks and San Antonio Scorpions have helped the Silverbacks climb to the top of the NASL standings, a place they’ll be looking to defend this Saturday.
The Silverbacks will enter Saturday’s action rested and refreshed after having last weekend off, while FC Edmonton makes the trek to Atlanta on the heels of a scoreless draw against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The draw was probably a pleasing result for FC Edmonton Head Coach Colin Miller, considering his team was reduced to ten men early in the second half following a second yellow card to defender Mallan Roberts.
FC Edmonton will be without Roberts’ services in Atlanta this weekend, meaning their defense will have to step up against a Silverbacks team that possesses one of the more high-powered attacks in the league. Forward Ruben Luna, who didn’t make the trip to Edmonton in May, will lead the way for the Silverbacks. The former FC Dallas forward has six goals in all competitions this year, and has scored in two of the club’s last three home games.
Saturday’s game will be the Silverbacks first since May 28 when they fell to Real Salt Lake, 3-2, in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup. Although ultimately disappointing, the result provided Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes with some encouragement, as his team went toe to toe with one of Major League Soccer’s top teams in their own backyard.
Silverbacks forward Kellen Gulley, on loan from the Chicago Fire, netted the first goal of his professional career against Real Salt Lake, and will look to draw confidence from that performance as he continues to push for minutes in league play.
Along with Luna and Gulley, midfielders Danny Barrera and Richie Menjivar will look to continue their strong form and control the play in the midfield. Barrera recently finished second in NASL Player of the Month voting, while Menjivar, an El Salvador international, returns to the fold after missing the last league game due to suspension.
In past seasons, the home team has almost always lost the matchups between these two sides, but this season could start a new trend with FC Edmonton having already won at home. The Canadians will attempt to continue their winning ways at Atlanta Silverbacks Park, but with the Silverbacks playing well at home and outscoring their opponents 7-3 in their last 4 home fixtures, it could ultimately prove to be difficult for the visitors.
The Silverbacks and FC Edmonton will play the night cap of the Silverbacks’ second doubleheader this season. The Atlanta Silverbacks Women kick off at 4:30 p.m. against the Carolina Elite Cobras, preceding the 7:30 p.m. kickoff of the men’s game. To purchase tickets, which are good for both games, call 404-969-4900 or visit atlantasilverbacksfc.com.