Last Saturday night’s win over the Carolina Railhawks at Atlanta Silverbacks Park was more than just three points for head coach Brian Haynes and his team – it actually represented the Silverbacks getting a giant monkey off their back. The win was their first against the RailHawks since joining the NASL in 2011.
Going into the game on Saturday, the Silverbacks had totaled seven losses and just one draw against the RailHawks over the past two seasons. Giving up 21 goals and scoring just eight on the Railhawks, the Silverbacks had never beaten them in NASL league play. The Silverbacks’ victory on Saturday perhaps reflected how far the team has come since their inaugural NASL season, in which they failed to take a single point from their head-to-head series with the RailHawks.
In 2011, the Silverbacks had just come back from a two-year hiatus after playing in the USL until 2008. The club had a completely new squad, and it was a squad that had very little time to practice together before the season began. In the inaugural season of the NASL, the Silverbacks were pitted against the Railhawks four times - twice at home and twice at WakMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
In three of the four games in 2011, the Silverbacks were either tied or within one goal going into the last 10 minutes, but of the nine goals scored by the Railhawks against the Silverbacks that year, six would come in the dying minutes of each game. The Silverbacks had a rough season, finishing last in the league and losing all of their games against the RailHawks.
In the first month of the 2012 season, the Silverbacks went undefeated, playing to four consecutive draws in their opening four games. One of those draws was a 4-4 thriller against the Railhawks at WakeMed Soccer Park.
The Silverbacks’ four goals that night were the most goals scored against the RailHawks in a single game since the league began in 2011. The 4-4 draw also featured four red cards and two-goal performances by RailHawks forward Nick Zimmerman and Silverbacks forward Reinaldo Navia.
Zimmerman, who has two career two-goal performances against the Silverbacks, has been the team’s achilles heel. Zimmerman has scored six goals against the Silverbacks - the most of any active player. He is also the only player to post a multi-goal game against the Silverbacks in two different seasons.
Despite losing the rest of the regular season matchups with the Railhawks in 2012, the Silverbacks improved dramatically, finishing with the league’s top record over the final nine games.
Entering the 2013 season, the Silverbacks and Railhawks were off to their best starts since joining the league. The Railhawks were undefeated with convincing wins over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, FC Edmonton, and the San Antonio Scorpions, while the Silverbacks had decisive victories themselves over the Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies.
History was on the RailHawks’ side on Saturday night, but the Silverbacks did not let that deter them from making their own history by handing them their first loss of the season and ascending to second place in the NASL standings.
The matchups between the Silverbacks and Railhawks have been historically one-sided, but with the Silverbacks gaining a victory this past weekend, they have turned the pages of history, beginning a new chapter that will surely see a more intensified series of games between the two clubs.