As the NASL’s midseason break comes to a close, the Atlanta Silverbacks are set to play their final July exhibition game on Saturday when they host Guatemalan side Club Xelaju MC at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
The game will represent the Silverbacks’ first international friendly at Atlanta Silverbacks Park since October 2011 when they fell, 1-0, to Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Mexican club side Irapuato FC. This time around, it’s a Guatemalan team coming in as the opponent, and they should prove to be a good test for the Silverbacks, who kick off NASL Fall Season play in just over a week when they visit Minnesota United FC on August 3.
Saturday’s game will give the Silverbacks’ typical starters their first opportunity to play in a competitive game since July 4 when they clinched the NASL Spring Season Championship in Minnesota. The game will also present some of the club’s reserve players with a chance to make their case for regular season playing time.
Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes got a good look at all of the Silverbacks’ reserves, along with a few trialists, in an exhibition win over NPSL side Georgia Revolution last Friday at RYSA Soccerplex in Conyers. He will likely have a few tough decisions to make following Saturday’s game against Xelaju.
Also looking to get a good look at both first team players and trialists is Xelaju Head Coach Saul Rivero, who will have to do some evaluating of his own. The Uruguayan head coach will have to replace a big void between the posts following the retirement of goalkeeper Fernando Patterson, who led the team in clean sheets and appearances.
Xelaju will be seeing their first real action since concluding the Apertura of the Liga Nacional de Guatemala back in June. In their last game, Xelaju lost, 2-1, on the road at CSD Comunicaciones. They will be looking to get their players back in form in time for the beginning of the 2013 Clausura, which also begins the first week of August.
Included in the “Los Superchivos” squad for the game against the Silverbacks is defender Fredy Santiago, midfielder Sergio Morales, and forward Israel Silva. Silva, who hails from Brazil, is the team’s leading scorer and will look to cause problems against a Silverbacks defense that will be playing its first major game without defender Mark Bloom, who is now with Toronto FC in MLS.
One of the players who will look to fill the void left by Bloom is defender Shane Moroney, who ironically enough was a teammate of Bloom’s at Berry College in Rome. Moroney only made two total apperances in the NASL Spring Season due to a knee injury that he suffered in the team’s season opener on April 13.
Moroney got the start on Friday in the Silverbacks’ victory over the Revolution, and he could get another start against Xelaju this Saturday. Along with Moroney, Mike Randolph, Willie Hunt, and Mark Lavery could all be potential candidates to take over for Bloom this season.
The Silverbacks and “Los Superchivos” will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. For tickets or more information, please call 404-969-4900 or visit www.atlantasilverbacksfc.com.