“We spotted them two goals and there’s no excuse for that,” said Silverbacks’ head coach Brian Haynes. “Its something we haven’t been doing at home and than we’re expected to come back and fight, which is tough to do in any league.”
After a slow-paced start to the first half, Atlanta (5-2-3, 17 points) had the first scoring opportunity as Pablo Cruz’s shot to the right side required an athletic save from Tampa Bay goalkeeper Diego Restrepo in the 16th minute on a breakaway to keep the match scoreless. Tampa Bay (4-4-3, 15 points) responded with an offensive attack in the 21st minute when Atlanta goalkeeper Joe Nasco made a brilliant diving save on Rowdies’ Keith Savage shot in the 21st minute.
Atlanta defender Beto Navarro looked to get the first goal of the match on a header off of a corner kick in the 26th minute, but a late save by Restrepo denied the Silverbacks. Borfor Carr’s shot to the right side almost gave Atlanta the lead heading into halftime at the 33rd minute but another diving save by Restrepo prevented the opportunity.
Tampa Bay scored the first goal of the match off of a penalty kick by Georgi Hristov in the 50th minute to give the Rowdies the 1-0 lead. The kick came after a controversial referee call when a Rowdies’ attacker was fouled within the Silverbacks’ penalty area, causing the partisan Atlanta fans to express their disapproval with vociferous boos from the stands. The 5,711 attendees would find more disillusion as a second penalty shot was awarded to the Rowdies and converted by Mike Ambersley in the 59th minute to increase Tampa Bay’s lead, 2-0.
Atlanta began to mount its comeback and aggressive play led to a free kick opportunity just outside of the penalty box on the right side in the 63rd minute. Cruz proceeded to unleash a looping shot that bent around the defensive wall and beat Restrepo in the near post to cut the lead in half.
“Milton Blanco was going to take the kick but I was asking for it the whole time,” said Cruz. “I took the opportunity and put it in the back of the net.”
Atlanta had numerous chances to tie the match, including two consecutive shots by Brad Stisser in the 84th and 86th minutes that required difficult saves by Restrepo. The Silverbacks’ last attack came in extra-time when a hard shot up the middle by Carr was saved by the goalkeeper.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t score tonight,” said Cruz. “I felt we had more possession and opportunities but it just didn’t go our way.”
Atlanta’s final two matches of the spring season will be on the road at Carolina and the Minnesota United. “We have to go on the road and do what he have to do,” stated Haynes. “We can’t look for draws, we have to get wins.”
The Silverbacks will travel to Cary, N.C. to face the RailHawks in a crucial battle June 29 at WakeMed Soccer Park. The game will live on www.atlantasilverbacks.com.