Coming off a pivotal win against the first-place Carolina Railhawks, the Atlanta Silverbacks start their 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup bid at 7 p.m. on Tuesday with a special in-state matchup against NPSL side Georgia Revolution at RYSA Soccerplex in Conyers.
Being dubbed the “Battle for Atlanta,” the two teams meet in the second round of the Cup for the second year in a row. The Silverbacks are hoping to leave Conyers with a win Tuesday night – just as they did one year ago, escaping with a narrow 1-0 triumph.
The Silverbacks enter Tuesday’s matchup on the heels of a crucial victory. Head Coach Brian Haynes’ club defeated the league-leading RailHawks for the first time in nine tries as a member of the NASL. It was the RailHawks’ first loss of the season, and with the three points, the Silverbacks moved to within a point of first place.
While being successful in the league is the team’s primary focus, making a run in the Cup is extremely important as well. This year marks the Cup’s 100th anniversary and presents the Silverbacks with a unique opportunity to play against competition from several different levels of American soccer.
Getting past the Revolution won’t be an easy task – just ask last year’s Silverbacks team. Revolution forward Kwadwo Poku, who bagged a hat trick in the club’s first-round win over Real Colorado Foxes, had a penalty kick saved by Silverbacks goalkeeper Joe Nasco in the first half of last year’s game. The Revolution played strongly throughout, only to see Silverbacks defender Raphael Cox, now with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, score a goal late in the second half to clinch the win.
Poku was impressive last year and even more so in this year’s first round. The Ghanaian’s trio of goals helped give his side what seemed to be an insurmountable second-half lead last Tuesday in Conyers, but three late goals from the Foxes made for a dramatic finish. Poku and his teammates were able to hold off the visitors, however, earning another shot at the Silverbacks.
The Silverbacks will have to be careful when dealing with an athletic Revolution side. Poku and company are clinical in front of goal, as evidenced by their four-goal output in the first-round game. The Revolution defense will be called into question, though. Giving up three goals in 10-minute span against a PDL side is something they’ll need to put behind them. Players like Silverbacks forwards Pedro Mendes, Ruben Luna, and Jahbari Willis will surely be a handful for the Revolution back line.
As with many Cup games, it’s possible Haynes could give a few reserve players some rare minutes. It will be important for some players to get a little more rest in between the Saturday league games.
The winner of Tuesday’s “Battle For Atlanta” will go on to face MLS side Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium next Tuesday – an opportunity either team would relish.
The Silverbacks and Revolution will kick off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. General admission tickets are $5. Fans can watch a live stream of the game here or follow the game on Twitter at @ATLSilverbacks.