The Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves came back from an early goal down to move into first place in the NPSL Southeast Division Saturday afternoon.
The team’s 3-1 victory over Jacksonville United FC, coupled with Rocket City United’s 2-1 loss to the Knoxville Force, puts Atlanta in first place on goals scored.
Playing less than 24 hours after tying Chattanooga FC, the Silverbacks Reserves were stunned early. In the 2nd minute, Wale Leyimu cut in from the left flank across the top of the box and unleashed a low shot to the far post. Atlanta goalkeeper Eric Ati had no chance as the visitors took a shocking 1-0 lead.
Both teams managed to create a handful of chances in the first half, but the score remained 1-0 going into the locker room.
Despite the halftime deficit, Atlanta Head Coach Ricardo Montoya was more upbeat about his team’s first-half performance. “I think in the first half we played well. The only problem is we concede a goal so early and it changed everything.”
As was the case Friday night, everything changed for Atlanta in the second half. 12 minutes after the teams returned from the locker room, Silverbacks Reserves forward Tornubari Nyonebue turned past his mark in the box and unleashed a low shot. Jacksonville keeper Stuart McCrory did well to stretch and save the shot with his right hand, but the ball popped up in the air. Atlanta defender Kevin Rodriguez was there to tap in the rebound to tie the game.
Nyonebue would continue to torment the Jacksonville defense and eventually came up with the play that would change the game in Atlanta’s favor for good. In the 66th minute he ran onto a ball from Andrew Green and drove into the box. Nyonebue faked out McCrory who could do nothing but foul the Silverbacks Reserves’ forward. The play resulted in a penalty kick for Atlanta and a red card for McCrory. In stepped Parker Dixon, who could not stop the penalty kick from Juan Arbelaez.
Playing down a man for over 20 minutes, Dixon did admirably keeping out the third goal. That would change in stoppage time, as once again Nyonebue found Nick Burton unmarked in the box and the second-half substitute finished off the game with his first goal of the season.
After the game, Montoya cited his team’s work ethic despite having a shortened bench as one of the keys to the second-half turnaround. “What I like about this team is they never gave up. We were down, we were playing bad, and they never gave up,” Montoya said.
The win gives Atlanta four points, tied with Chattanooga FC at the top of the Southeast Division. Jacksonville United, on the other hand, dropped their second game in less than 24 hours. The Florida outfit lost 2-1 at the Georgia Revolution on Friday night. Jacksonville currently sits at the bottom of the Southeast Division with three losses in three games.