The Atlanta Silverbacks were tired of tying games. On Saturday night, they ended their recent string of draws, earning a 2-1 win over the San Antonio Scorpions in front of 3,754 fans at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
Goals from Silverbacks forward Ruben Luna and midfielder Danny Barrera gave the home team a 2-0 lead, but a deflected effort from Scorpions forward Hans Denissen midway through the second half created a nervy finish. The Silverbacks (2-4-1) held on, however, and earned their first league win since August 3.
"These guys know where to find each other and when you see that, you can sit back and relax," said Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes. "It is a cool chemistry to watch. We wanted to make sure that when the game got to 2-0, we defended the lead and won the game."
By winning the NASL Spring Season and booking their place in the league’s championship game, NASL Soccer Bowl 2013, the Silverbacks have the luxury of trying out different lineups during the fall season. Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes did just that on Saturday night, drafting defender Josh Suggs, midfielders Bobby Reiss and Danny Barrera, and forward Ruben Luna into the starting lineup in place of four starters from last week: defender Mike Randolph, midfielders Milton Blanco and Brad Stisser, and forward Pedro Mendes.
Despite the changes to the lineup, the Silverbacks came out strong as a group, and didn’t waste any time opening the scoring. After forward Luna drew a foul 35 yards from the Scorpions’ goal, Barrera whipped in a curling free kick, which eventually fell to Luna. The Mexican forward didn’t have to do much, poking the ball high into the net from two yards out to give his team a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute.
The Scorpions (0-1-6), who feature the dynamic strike partnership of Tomasz Zahorski and Denissen, wouldn’t go quietly as the first half continued. Midfielder Walter Ramirez forced Silverbacks goalkeeper Joe Nasco into a tough diving save in the 19th minute, and midfielder Javier Saavedra tested Nasco again less than two minutes later with a difficult header.
It was a back-and-forth first half, with each team creating several strong scoring opportunities. The Silverbacks picked up where they left off in the second half, with Barrera doubling his team’s lead in the 51st minute. Luna, who finished off a feed from Barrera early on, turned the tables and fed his teammate for the second goal. The Mexican laid the ball off to Barrera, who fired the ball into the upper corner past Hannigan for a 2-0 lead.
After Barrera’s goal, the Silverbacks looked poised for a third, but the Scorpions would fight their way back into the game with a little bit of luck. Denissen had a shot from the top of the penalty area severely deflected by a Silverbacks defender, leaving Nasco out of position for the ball to roll into the net. The goal, which came in the 61st minute, was Denissen’s 11th of the season.
Randolph and Blanco, who both normally start for the Silverbacks, were each introduced as second-half substitutes to help the team defensively. The Silverbacks would need them, as the visitors aggressively pressed forward for an equalizer.
The Silverbacks would successfully weather the storm, and just before the final whistle, they had an opportunity to put the icing on the cake. After being hauled down in the penalty area by Hannigan in stoppage time, Luna had an opportunity to notch his second goal of the game against his former team. The former FC Dallas forward’s penalty kick hit the top of the crossbar, however, denying the Silverbacks what would have been only their second three-goal performance in the league this year.
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