The offseason goal for the Atlanta Silverbacks was to look ahead, not back. Through a series of signings involving experienced players from seven different countries, the Silverbacks achieved that offseason goal. The big question that remains for the team is whether or not they can translate their offseason exploits into success on the field in 2012.
After having the youngest team in the NASL last season, the Silverbacks have added veteran leadership and experience to every position. Complimenting the young core group returning from last season, all nine newcomers are over the age of 27, and several of them have experience playing for their respective national teams.
Midfielder Danilo Turcios (Honduras) and forwards Reinaldo Navia (Chile) and Stephen Ademolu (Canada) have all represented their country at the senior national team level.
Turcios, 33, comes to the Silverbacks after many successful seasons in the top-flight divisions of Uruguay, Honduras and Mexico. While his professional experience will be very useful in the NASL, it’s his time with the national team that distinguishes him from the other players in the league. With 85 appearances for the Honduran national team, Turcios is the most experienced international player in the NASL. A pair of those appearances came in the 2010 FIFA World Cup when he suited up against Spain and Switzerland in South Africa.
Navia has been a prolific goal scorer since he made his debut for Santiago Wanderers of the Chilean first division in 1995. The 33-year-old has the spent the better part of his career in the Mexican first division, where he starred for Club America, Estudiantes Tecos, and Monarcas Morelia. He also played for Mexican clubs Monterrey, San Luis, Atlas, and Irapuato, and totaled nearly 100 goals during his time in the country. From 1999-2007, Navia made 40 appearances for the Chilean national team, scoring 10 goals.
Joining Navia at the forward position, Ademolu brings extensive European experience to Atlanta. He played for five years overseas, with his best years coming at Norwegian first division side Tromso IL and Lithuanian first division side FK Ekranas. Ademolu scored the game-winning goal that sent Tromso FC to the Champions League group stage for the first time in the team’s history. He also had great success with FK Ekranas, winning the league twice and winning the Lithuanian Treble in 2010.
21-year-old forward David Santamaria has also joined the team on loan from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to provide offensive reinforcements. The former Jacksonville University frontman made his professional debut last season for the Strikers, scoring in his first career game after coming on as a substitute against the Carolina RailHawks.
The Silverbacks added another veteran into the midfield this offseason, welcoming back Tony McManus for his second stop with the club. Known as a strong tackler and tough defensive midfielder, the Tennessee native is a veteran of American professional soccer. After being taken in the MLS SuperDraft in 2004, McManus landed in Atlanta, where he spent four seasons as a member of the Silverbacks. He enters the season third all-time on the franchise’s list of most appearances, and also holds prior playing experience with the Portland Timbers, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and Carolina RailHawks.
Helping anchor the Silverbacks defensive unit are incoming center backs Rilla and Martyn Lancaster
Lancaster, a native of Wigan, England, returns for his second stint with the Silverbacks after playing with the team from 2007-2008. Lancaster started his career with English side Chester City where he played for six seasons. He also played for Scottish first division side Queen of the South and Swedish side Ljungskile before coming back to the U.S. to play for the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. Lancaster played against the Silverbacks four times last season as a member of the Strikers, but has moved to Atlanta to help improve a defensive unit that gave up the most goals in the league last season.
Rilla, whose full given name is Lindomar Ferreira da Silva, comes to Atlanta after playing 10 seasons in his native country of Brazil. The 6-foot-3 defender brings size and athleticism to the team’s back line, while giving the team a big target on set pieces. Rilla will pair with Lancaster in the middle of the Silverbacks defense.
Rounding out the new faces in 2012 is a pair of goalkeepers, joining the team in place of last year’s goalkeepers Felipe Quintero and Jimmy Maurer.
Hungarian shot stopper Daniel Illyes comes to the Silverbacks after 11 seasons playing in his native country. Illyes had success with Hungarian first division side Ujpest FC where he played for eight seasons, helping his team to a league title in the process. Florida native Joe Nasco, slotted to backup Illyes, signs his first pro contract after playing in the PDL and training with teams such as the Chicago Fire and Puerto Rico Islanders.
Silverbacks Head Coach Alex Pineda Chacón has enjoyed working with the team’s new players this preseason, and looks forward to seeing them in the lineup on gamedays in 2012.
“Our goal during the offseason was to bring in talent that fit our playing style and create competition at each position,” Chacón said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but after seeing our players in the preseason, I can say that we’re absolutely headed in the right direction.”