The Atlanta Silverbacks fell out of first place in the NASL standings with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Tampa Rowdies Saturday night at in front of 5,711 fans at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
Two penalty kicks early in the second half gave the Rowdies the advantage before Silverbacks midfielder Pablo Cruz answered with a curling free kick to make it 2-1 after 62 minutes. Despite numerous chances for the Silverbacks at the end, the score held up, dropping the Silverbacks to second place.
Georgi Hristov and Mike Ambersley struck from the spot for the Rowdies in the 50th and 59th minutes.
"All credit to Atlanta, who really pressed hard, but I thought we came out in the second period and played very brightly," said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill, whose side is eliminated from the race to host Soccer Bowl after Carolina won at home for a fifth straight game. "I have to give our players credit for sticking with it and getting three points at the end. If they give me that much effort every week, I can’t complain."
Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes said: "If you give a team two goals in any league its very difficult to come back from and we have to blame ourselves for the loss. We might have played well as far as the game is concerned but we didn’t play smart and that is when the mistakes came."
An exciting opening 45 minutes ended scoreless as the Silverbacks controlled the early part of the first half, with forward Ruben Luna and midfielders Borfor Carr and Pablo Cruz forcing Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo into several key saves. Carr and Cruz were the catalysts on most of the Silverbacks offensive opportunities, causing problems for Rowdies defenders.
The visitors picked things up later in the half, however, with Keith Savage serving as the first Rowdies player to call Silverbacks goalkeeper Joe Nasco into action. Minutes later, midfielder Shane Hill powered a low shot towards goal that a diving Nasco had to grab at the last instant.
A shot from outside the 18-yard box almost put the Rowdies up, with midfielder Luke Mulholland setting up Shane Hill at the top of the box. His strike was headed to the back of the net, but Nasco would once again get in the way of it. Atlanta would have one more chance to go up one goal, with Carr blasting a shot as he entered the box. Restrepo would come up big with a fantastic save to send the ball out for a corner kick.
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