The Atlanta Silverbacks beat the San Antonio Scorpions 1-0 on Saturday evening in Atlanta to take first place in the North American Soccer League for the first time since they joined the league in 2011.
Behind a performance that was characterized more by its blue-collar work ethic more than any flashes of brilliance Atlanta’s Silverbacks beat San Antonio, who worked hard but provided little offensive threat. That result, coupled with a loss by Tampa at home to Minnesota United, meant that at the end of play Saturday night, Atlanta was leading the NASL for the first time in its history.
Atlanta, who played the game without El Salvador international Richie Menjivar out because of suspension, started very brightly. They passed the ball quite crisply and, as such, controlled the flow of the game. However with little offensive spark there was little to challenge San Antonio from open play. Most chances came from set pieces offered by free kicks or corners.
San Antonio played themselves into the game after weathering the first thirty minutes but other than one low shot that forced a save from Silverbacks keeper, Eric Ati there was little threat to the Silverbacks possessive dominance.
The second half started in a manner similar to the first half, Atlanta dominating possession and looking the more likely to score of either team but still not providing the spark.
Atlanta’s midfield of Danny Barrera and Borfor Carr continued their dominance winning possession and going forward but it seemed Atlanta was being too direct at times trying to take the ball down the middle of the pitch.
Adding width later on in the form of Brad Stisser helped as the Silverbacks were able to spread the ball out and attack down the wings stretching San Antonio’s defense.
As Atlanta continued to press and San Antonio offered little to counter it became apparent that if there was to be a winner, it was going to be the Silverbacks. In the 86th minute Danny Barrera obliged and scored a goal that was typical of the game, scrappy! Forward Kellen Gulley hit a shot that was deflected into Barrera’s path and he managed to score off the hands of keeper Hannigan.
Despite from frantic pressure from San Antonio in the last five minutes of time and during time added on Atlanta was able to hold on for the win.
Brian Haynes was pretty realistic about the game, “To get a win from that game is fantastic,“ he said. “It’s the kind of game that can get bad if you make a defensive mistake and we got the win and I’m proud and happy for them. Good teams win ugly games and we just did that tonight.”
Scorpions coach Tim Hankinson was equally realistic given the fact that San Antonio spent most of the evening on their heels, he said: “I thought we defended well all night and it was unfortunate to concede the goal at the end but overall I’m pleased. We didn’t create the attacks we needed.”
Atlanta leads the league by two points but the Carolina RailHawks who don’t play this week have a game in hand. Up next for the Silverbacks on Tuesday is a road game in the U.S. Open Cup against Real Salt Lake while San Antonio plays next weekend at home against Minnesota.