The Atlanta Silverbacks kicked off their 2012 preseason with a win, topping the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers, 2-0, Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
Forward Matt Horth tallied a pair of first-half goals, picking up where he left off from last season when he scored eight goals as a rookie.
The Silverbacks, still without forwards Reinaldo Navia and Stephen Ademolu and midfielder Danilo Turcios, fielded a starting lineup that featured four newcomers and seven returning players.
Midfielder Ciaran O’Brien nearly put the Silverbacks ahead inside of five minutes, but his 22-yard free kick was kept out well by Blazers goalkeeper Jack Falle. The home team would take the lead just six minutes later, though, with Horth gathering a pass from Silverbacks defender Rilla and converting easily from ten yards out to make the score 1-0.
The home team could have been ahead by three goals after 30 minutes, but a pair of key defensive plays by the Blazers kept the game close. Silverbacks midfielder Nico Colaluca and defender Shane Moroney each had efforts cleared off the line by the visiting defense.
The Silverbacks doubled their lead in the 33rd minute thanks to a well-worked possession up the right side. Defender Martyn Lancaster played a cross into midfielder Raphael Cox, who flicked the ball into Horth. The 6-foot-3 forward did the rest, poking a well-placed finish past Falle for his second goal of the game.
O’Brien had a chance to give the Silverbacks a third goal in the 35th minute, but his shot from 18 yards grazed the post.
Each team subbed extensively in the second half, with several players from the 2011 Silverbacks team seeing action. Midfielder Fernando Gonzalez, who sat out all but four games last season due to a foot injury, was one of the returning players to see time.
The Silverbacks next preseason game is Saturday, March 10, when they host the Charleston Battery of the USL at 4 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. The game will double as the Silverbacks “Select-a-Seat” event. All preseason home games are free to the public.
SILVERBACKS STARTING LINEUP: GK Illyes (Trialist 45', Ati 70'), D Moroney (Trialist 67'), D Matsushita (Trialist 80'), D Rilla (Robertson 53'), D Lancaster (Hunt 61'), M Colaluca (Trialist 64'), M McManus (Davis 60'), M Paulini (Gonzalez 58'), F O'Brien (Santamaria 53'), F Cox (Trialist 64'), F Horth (Trialist 76')