Thanks to a late goal from midfielder Danny Barrera, the Atlanta Silverbacks topped the San Antonio Scorpions, 1-0, Saturday night in front of 4,422 fans at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. The win, combined with a loss by the Tampa Bay Rowdies, vaulted the Silverbacks (4-1-2) to the top of the North American Soccer League standings.
“Good teams win ugly games and we did just that tonight,” said Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes. “It was the kind of game that can get bad if you make a defensive mistake, but we got the win and I’m proud and happy for the team.”
The Silverbacks entered play confidently Saturday night, with two consecutive wins under their belt – one in the league against the Carolina RailHawks and the other in the U.S. Open Cup over the Georgia Revolution. They started the game looking like a side full of belief, dominating possession and limiting the Scorpions (1-2-4) to very few scoring opportunities. Silverbacks forward Pedro Mendes saw a header bounce just wide of the post in the early going, while a dangerous cross from Barrera forced Scorpions goalkeeper Pat Hannigan to make an impressive save.
The first half was largely quiet, though, leaving Haynes displeased after 45 minutes. The Scorpions limped into Saturday’s affair, coming off a disappointing home loss to PDL side FC Tucson in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup.
Whatever Haynes said at halftime must have hit home with the Silverbacks players because it didn’t take long for them to test Hannigan. In the 48th minute, Silverbacks defender Mark Bloom launched a low shot towards the corner, but the Scorpions goalkeeper was up to the task to punch it away.
For the Scorpions, the second half was much of the same. The visitors offered very little going forward, with a tame effort from midfielder Edin Husic serving as their best scoring chance. The Silverbacks continued to pressure the Scorpions’ defense, but couldn’t find an opening.
In the 80th minute, it appeared the Silverbacks would finally get the goal they deserved. Defender Mike Randolph floated a beautiful cross in front of goal for an onrushing Barrera, but Scorpions defender Blake Wagner somehow beat him to the spot, desperately clearing it wide.
Barrera’s frustration would turn into joy just six minutes later, however, when the Silverbacks finally found the net. Substitute forward Kellen Gulley fired a shot off a Scorpions defender, and the ball fell right to Barrera, who converted off the hands of Hannigan to make it 1-0 in the 86th minute.
The Silverbacks back line, which was strong all night, would stand tall until the end, earning their second straight shutout in NASL play. The Silverbacks now sit atop the NASL standings for the first time since joining the league in 2011. The team has a bye next weekend before hosting FC Edmonton at Atlanta Silverbacks Park on June 8.