Atlanta, Ga. (August 31, 2013) – The Atlanta Silverbacks and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, NASL's defending champions, played to an intense 1-1 draw on Saturday night in front of 3,202 fans at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
Silverbacks forward Pedro Mendes put his team in front inside of four minutes, but an early second-half penalty kick from Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov gave the visitors a share of the points.
The Silverbacks entered Saturday night’s match looking to get back on track after taking just two points from their last three games. Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes inserted defender Bobby Reiss and midfielder Pablo Cruz into the starting lineup, replacing midfielders Alex Caceres and Danny Barrera, who each started in the team’s 1-0 loss to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers last Saturday in Atlanta.
For a team that started off the 2013 season in strong goal-scoring form, the Silverbacks have struggled to find the net in recent weeks. Haynes didn’t have to wait long for his team to score on Saturday night, however, with forward Mendes notching his fifth goal of the season in just the 4th minute.
The Brazilian took a pass from Silverbacks midfielder and El Salvador international Richard Menjivar, and buried a shot past Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo from 20 yards out to give his team an early 1-0 advantage.
Following a 20-minute lightning delay, the Silverbacks kept their foot on the gas pedal, though, and in the 24th minute, they should have doubled their lead. Cruz dribbled through the Rowdies’ defense, beating a trio of defenders before seeing his shot stopped by Restrepo from point-blank range.
Just as quickly as the Silverbacks started the first half, the Rowdies came out of the locker room after halftime with a real purpose. Their early second-half pressure paid off in the 50th minute when Silverbacks defender Martyn Lancaster was whistled for a handball in the penalty area. Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov would be the one to step up to the penalty spot, swiftly dispatching the ball into the corner of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
The Rowdies have scored three times in two games at Atlanta Silverbacks Park this season, and all of the goals have come from the penalty spot – two of them coming from handballs by Lancaster.
Following the Rowdies’ tally, the game took a wild turn, with the two teams trading high-quality scoring opportunities. In the 65th minute, Cruz played teammate Horace James in on goal, but the Jamaican somehow fired wide from just seven yards out. Just a minute later, Rowdies forward Etienne Barbara dodged a pair of Silverbacks defenders to find himself clear on goal, but the Malta international’s shot flew just wide of Silverbacks goalkeeper Joe Nasco’s far post.
It was then Silverbacks midfielder Milton Blanco’s turn to come close to scoring in the 69th minute, but again the close-range effort – this time a header – fell wide. In the 81st minute, Nasco was called into action by Rowdies midfielder Evans Frimpong, and the Silverbacks goalkeeper somehow held on to the ball before it crossed the line.
The Silverbacks earned themselves one final chance to seal the three points, but the ball was cleared off the Rowdies goal line after a frenzy in the penalty area. The ball just wouldn’t go in for the Silverbacks in the second half, meaning they had to frustratingly settle for a third draw in their last four NASL Fall Season games.
Next up for the Silverbacks are the NASL’s newcomers, the New York Cosmos. The Silverbacks will travel to New York City next Saturday to play against one of American soccer’s most iconic teams at Shuart Stadium. The game can be seen live online at NASL.com/live.
SILVERBACKS LINEUP: GK Nasco, D Randolph, D Lancaster (Stisser – 69’), D Navarro, D Reiss, M Cruz, M Menjivar, M Blanco (Paulini – 82’), M James, M Carr (Caceres – 55’), F Mendes
ROWDIES LINEUP: GK Restrepo, D Sanfillipo, D Needham, D Yamada, D Arango, M Frimpong, M Campbell (Gafa – 78’), M Hill (Barbara – 57’), M Savage, F Mulholland, F Hristov