After nearly a month on the road, the Atlanta Silverbacks return home to host the Carolina RailHawks on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
It was an up-and-down road trip for the Silverbacks (1-5-5). The team was able to clinch their first league win of the season in Edmonton, but they followed it up with a disappointing 3-0 loss to the San Antonio Scorpions last Saturday.
The RailHawks (2-5-4) come to Atlanta as a much-improved team. Colin Clarke’s side had a rough start to the season, but they have been able to find their form of late, winning two of their last three games. With recent wins over the first-place Puerto Rico Islanders and defending champion Minnesota Stars FC, the RailHawks will provide the Silverbacks with a difficult test at home.
The partnership up front between RailHawks forwards Nick Zimmerman and Brian Shriver has proved to be a headache for opposing defenses, with each player having already tallied five goals this season. Zimmerman and Shriver will look to take advantage of a Silverbacks defense that has conceded the most goals in the league this season.
The hosts’ defense will receive a boost on Saturday, though, with defender and team captain Martyn Lancaster returning to the lineup after sitting out a game due to a red card suspension. With Kohei Matsushita and Patrick Robertson healthy, the team’s backline will be at full strength for the first time in several weeks.
The Silverbacks lineup still contains Chilean forward Reinaldo Navia, who continues to lead the league in goals scored with six. Midfielder Ciaran O’Brien, who is second in the league in assists with four, will look to combine with Navia to exploit a RailHawks defense that gave up four goals in their last meeting with the Silverbacks on April 16.
O’Brien and Navia combined for one of Navia’s two goals in that 4-4 draw at WakeMed Soccer Park, with midfielder Raphael Cox and defender Willie Hunt also chipping in a goal apiece.
The RailHawks will feature several new faces since the last time these two teams met, with USA international Gale Agbossoumonde and former MLS players Austin Da Luz and Zack Schilawski emerging as regulars in the RailHawks lineup.
Nearly 6,000 fans took advantage of the organization’s free ticket promotion ahead of Fan Appreciation Night on Saturday, which could make for the largest crowd ever for a league game at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m., with gates opening at 5 p.m.