The Atlanta Silverbacks woke up on Monday morning with a broad smile on their collective faces.
Three teams playing in three different games at the weekend all had an opportunity to claim three points, and with it pole position in the North American Soccer League, but not one of them was able to take advantage. With the Silverbacks enjoying a much-needed rest in the form of the bye week following three games in the space of ten days, the clubs in second, third and fourth place failed to capitalize.
The Carolina RailHawks, fresh of a victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup needed a late equalizer to salvage a draw in Fort Lauderdale, Minnesota United went down in San Antonio and the Tampa Bay Rowdies were held to a scoreless stalemate in Edmonton.
At the other end of the table, the results left the Scorpions and Strikers still in contention – only five points, or two wins, off top spot. That underlines a phrase I heard NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson roll out a few times when talking to media and delegates at the U.S. Soccer events in Washington, DC, that ‘every game matters’ in this league. Roll on the upcoming weekend when second plays third as the RailHawks host the Rowdies and the Silverbacks, with the season destiny in their own hands, return against an FC Edmonton side that could rise to second place.
Talking of the Centennial celebrations in the nation’s capital, surely more stars of the American men’s and women’s national teams have never before gathered in one location to commemorate their role in the growth of the sport than were at the Saturday night Gala. Throw a dart at a random list of names of those who have provided us with some of the most glorious moments in World Cup and Olympics soccer history and you’ll do well to miss one of them.
Mia Hamm, Hope Solo, Alexi Lalas, Paul Caligiuri, the great Walter Bahr and many, many more; they lined up and paraded across the stage punctuated by messages from Presidents past and present and highlights from the most recent years of success on the international front. Lalas recalled his time in the 1994 World Cup spotlight as ‘a lot of hair and a lot of faux denim ago’.
The following day at the National Council Meeting, new CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb recalled how as a young child, he first discovered soccer by going to watch a Tampa Bay Rowdies game against the New York Cosmos. Great to know the NASL started him on the path to his role as a FIFA Vice President.
I never leave sporting events early. Never. I look at those fans who leave a game with ten minutes to go with the result still in the balance and wonder what on earth they have to get home for. Maybe to catch American Idol or to walk the dog, but surely there is no logic to leaving early. But Sunday was sadly an exception to my rule. Needing to catch a flight out of Dulles early evening, I departed RFK at halftime with the U.S two goals to the good courtesy of a great early Jozy Altidore strike and a comical own goal. (Being a Villa fan, I can sympathize. Just Google Peter Enckelman.) So I missed the 4-1 lead over Germany and the nervous last few minutes, cursing the fact even more when storms delayed my flight until 8.30pm and I realized I could have stayed to enjoy the hospitality of U.S. Soccer.
But it was a great weekend, whether you were a fan of the Atlanta Silverbacks or a fan celebrating 100 years of U.S. Soccer. Here’s to the next century.
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|New York Cosmos||14||9||4||1||10||31|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||14||5||5||4||3||20|
|Minnesota United FC||14||6||2||6||2||20|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||14||5||3||6||-2||18|
|San Antonio Scorpions||14||3||1||10||-9||10|
|San Antonio Scorpions||12||6||2||4||4||20|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||12||5||3||4||5||18|
|Minnesota United FC||12||4||2||6||-5||14|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||12||2||2||8||-14||8|