The Atlanta Silverbacks opened their 2014 North American Soccer League home season on Saturday night against the San Antonio Scorpions with a 2-1 defeat. A sell-out crowd of 5,000 on a chilly, windy and drizzling night saw the Silverbacks lose the match up despite dominating much of the second half.
Both Atlanta and San Antonio came into the game looking for their first points of the season having lost their opening games last week. Atlanta lost to the New York Cosmos while San Antonio lost to Minnesota United, the two teams who are rapidly becoming this season’s class of the NASL. To try and keep pace with those two a win in this game was important for either the Scorpions or the Silverbacks.
It was a nervous start to the match for both teams with neither one providing any rhythm or fluidity when going forward and both looking vulnerable at the back. The first half of the game was choppy and the battle lines were mainly drawn in the midfield where San Antonio's newest signings, Danny Barrera and Richie Menjivar tried to stamp their influence on the game and their former teammates.
The physical nature of the midfield battle resulted in the referee constantly whistling for fouls, some more deserved than others, that also contributed to the disjointed nature of the game. It was one of those fouls that delivered the first goal.
A foul on Walter Restrepo deep in Atlanta’s half provided Danny Barrera the opportunity to challenge the Atlanta defense with a cross deep into the six-yard box. Atlanta’s keeper, Ati came for the ball but could not clear it and it was headed in by Scorpion defender Greg Janicki. San Antonio went in at halftime 1-0 up.
A lack of focus on the part of the Silverbacks at the outset of the second half meant they were two down within a minute of the restart as the Scorpions quickly doubled their lead through Shaun Saiko. Two goals proved to be enough although the Silverbacks mounted a spirited comeback for the remainder of the match.
The Silverbacks were dominant for long periods of the second half. They kept the Scorpions pinned deep in their half and were constantly putting the Scorpion defense under pressure. That pressure eventually paid off as Junior Sandoval headed in to reduce San Antonio’s advantage to just one goal.
That goal set up a frantic last few minutes as the Silverbacks pushed for the equalizer. Coming close several times the San Antonio defense held firm and held on for the important win.
Scorpions coach Alen Marcina commented after the game, “Obviously it is great feeling to get this result, I felt our guys played well and the guys should put some more away but all credit to them and they played the full 90 minutes and got the result.”
Next up for the Scorpions is a visit to the New York Cosmos while Atlanta, still seeking their first points will entertain the Tampa Bay Rowdies.