The Atlanta Silverbacks were crowned North American Soccer League Spring Season champions on a spectacular Fourth of July final day of action and will host the 2013 Soccer Bowl in November.
Brian Haynes' side triumphed 3-0 away at the NSC Stadium on Thursday evening to Minnesota United FC to finish on 21 points and watched nervously as the Carolina RailHawks fought to take a draw in San Antonio Scorpions, but conceded a late goal to lose 2-0 and fall agonizingly short of taking top spot by a single point.
Minnesota United FC's fisrt game at the NSC in Blaine attracted an impressive 6,507 fans to the team's final home game of the spring season.
The win also caps off a story that featured the Silverbacks finishing next to last in 2012 to now taking the top spot in the standings and their first NASL crown.
“I am so proud of these guys and how they played,” said Haynes “We did what we had to do so I am so proud of the boys who gave a great effort against a good team and we took our chances well.”
In the first half, Silverbacks forward Brian Stisser won a header at the near post and his flick beat United goalkeeper Matt VanOekel to score the opener in the 30th minute.
“When we had the chance we were fortunate to put one away,” Haynes summed up his team’s performance in the first half as Atlanta took a 1-0 advantage.
With a possibility of winning the league, Atlanta continued in the second half and made it 2-0 when defender Bobby Reiss scored off an assist from Jamaican midfielder Horace James in the 73rd minute.
In the 82nd minute, Mexican forward Ruben Luna fired an 18-yarder passed VanOekel to give the Silverbacks a 3-0 final score.
The Silverbacks then celebrated as the San Antonio Scorpions scored a second goal to deny the Carolina RailHawks a comeback, ensuring Atlanta remained a point clear at the top.
“It’s tough to take because we started great early,” said United coach Manny Lagos. “A big monument as a club to figure out how to get better.”
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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|