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Silverbacks Tie RailHawks in 8 Goal Thriller

The Atlanta Silverbacks went on the road for the first time this season to face the 2011 regular season champion Carolina RailHawks. The Silverbacks still are without Canadian forward Stephen Ademolu who hasn’t made it to Atlanta yet. Other players that would be out due to injury included Forward Matt Horth (knee), Attacking Midfielder Danilo Turcios (hamstring), and Central Defender Rilla (knee).  It would be a good test of depth early in the season for the new look Silverbacks.

After the RailHawks scored the first goal of the night in the 2nd minute this game would also test the Silverbacks resilience.  Especially when the RailHawks scored their  second off a lazy backpass from Martin Lancaster. Goalkeeper Daniel Illyes was already off his line but he couldn’t get to the ball before Nick Zimmerman played it passed Illyes and slotted the shot into an empty net.

The Silverbacks pushed the tempo and it only took 5 minutes  to even the score up at 2 – 2 and enter the half with some momentum. Both goals came on similar plays in which they moved it up the field passed it in at the top of the box from the right side and Reinaldo Navia and Raphael Cox each with clinical finishes.

The Silverbacks took their first lead of the game in the 68th minute when Willie Hunt scored off a header following a corner kick. That lead didn’t last long as Zimmerman scored his second goal 6 minutes later. To make matters worse Willie Hunt received his second yellow of the game and was ejected.

Nobody would have blamed the Silverbacks for putting everyone behind the ball the looking to make it out with a point. However, despite being down a man the Silverbacks scored one more when Navia tallied his second of the night in the 80th minute to take the 4-3 lead.

Unfortunately, like last year in the final minutes of the game the Silverbacks couldn’t do enough to hold on to the points.  In the last minute of regulation RailHawks Forward Brian Shriver scored the final goal of the game to ensure his team a point.  Just moments later there was a shoving match between Silverbacks Nico Colaluca and RailHawks Brian Ackley that excited both benches but cooler heads prevailed and things settled down quickly but that Referee wasn’t having any of it. After red carding both players the Ref decided not to play out the remainder of the stoppage time as he picked up the ball and walked off the pitch.

All around it was a highly entertaining match. Both teams played well and it was good to see the character of the team throughout the match as they answered every challenge presented to them.  The biggest concern may be with the red cards given to Hunt and Colaluca. Hopefully some players can return from injury and help boaster the teams depth this week.

Next up is a home match for the Silverbacks against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday, April 21st at 7:30.

UPDATE: video highlights http://www.carolinarailhawks.com/index.php?id=111&newsid=2075

MLS Southeast Expansion & NASL Expansion

Major League Soccer President Mark Abbott was invited by the Carolina RailHawks, of the NASL, to visit the Triangle area and have an open discussion regarding the potential of MLS expansion.  Other attendee’s included David Downs, commissioner of the NASL, and Aaron Davidson, vice president of Traffic Sports. The event opened with a fan forum, and included an invite only meeting of local business, community, and soccer leaders. The day concluded with a media round table at WakeMed Soccer Park, home of the Carolina Railhawks.

“We are not about jumping the gun and putting cart before the horse,” RailHawks President Curt Johnson said. “Those things evolve in time.”

“What we’re trying to do is build the largest possible fan base that we can have here and let other people decide what at the end of the day will be the future. Those people will be the owners, MLS and the NASL and the fans and corporate partners.”

The fan base will now have room to grow as WakeMed Soccer Park, which is owned by Wake County, is undergoing a $6.3 million expansion that will add 3,000 seats and move the capacity up to 10,000 seats. The project is scheduled to be completed by the September of this year.

Abbott said “I’m a firm believer there are markets in the Southeast that can perform at the level of the Pacific Northwest.”

MLS has indicated that it is focused on establishing a 20th expansion team in New York. But an expansion timetable beyond 20 teams, and specifically a plan for the Southeast, has not been established according to league officials.

Abbott also continued to communicate the three key factors that MLS evaluates in potential expansion targets: an ownership group financially capable of operating the team, a stadium seating between 20,000 and 25,000, and a market that can draw roughly that many fans while generating corporate support.

So while the MLS may not have any immediate plans for expansion is seems as though the NASL will be expanding soon. In addition to Ottawa joining in 2014, Indyweek Sports reported that the NASL is poised to announce two expansion franchises within the next 30-45 days. The league has finalized contractual terms with one club and is in the latter stages of negotiations with the other. One is an existing soccer club while the other is an upstart franchise. Moreover, Davidson indicated one will be stationed in the western U.S. while the other will be located within the NASL’s current main geographic footprint.

USL side Orlando City seems to be the most logical team to join the NASL. They have a great team, strong fan-base, and MLS ambitions that would all make sense for them to step up into the next level.

In regards to the western club Downs did rattled off a few potential expansion locations including: Phoenix, San Diego, Indianapolis, and Detroit. Phoenix has shown some great promise in recent friendlies and would give the San Antonio Scorpions a nearby team to help foster a rivalry.

See this MLS article on the visit and vote for Atlanta in the poll “Which Southeast market do you think will emerge as the frontrunner for expansion?”.

Video of the Fan Forum can be located at www.carolinarailhawks.com

So what markets do you think the NASL should expanded to next?

Countdown to Opening Kick: Roster & Coaches

In 2011 the Silverbacks were rushed to put together a team and they struggled all year long. They finished in last place in the NASL with a record of 4-20-4. With that type of performance it was no surprise that the Silverbacks relieved Jose Manuel Abundis of his head coaching duties, replacing him with last season’s assistant, Ales Pineda Chacon.

Chacon has been with the Silverbacks organization dating back to 2004 as a player and then as an an assistant coach for the 2007 season before the team went on hiatus for two years.

In addition to Chacon there are a handful of returning players. Last years team captain and midfielder Lucas Pauldini will return along with Forward Matt Horth and midfielders Ciaran O’Brien and Raphael Cox. Defenders Willie Hunt, Shane Moroney, Partick Robertson and Kohei Matsushita are also returning. Fernando Gonzalez will also return after suffering a season-ending foot injury in May of 2011.

Two players returning from previous stints with the club include Defensive midfielder Tony McManus (2005 – 2008) and Martyn Lancaster (2007 – 2008) .  McManus started last season with FC Tampa Bay (now Rowdies) and then after being released signed on with the Carolina Railhawks in August 2011.  Atlanta resident Martyn Lancaster advanced to the championship game last year with the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. Both return in hopes of helping boaster Atlanta’s defense.

To add another piece on the defensive side of the field the Silverbacks signed the 6′ 3″ Brazilian center back Rilla.  Hungarian goalkeeper and new addition Daniel Illyes will be thankful that Rilla is there to help anchor the defense.

All of the defense isn’t going to help if the team can’t score. That’s why the team has brought in some veteran players with international experience. Midfielder Danilo Turcios played 85 times for Honduras including twice in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Turcios is expected to be an attacking midfielder and a playmaker who can distribute the ball to the two new international forwards.

The Silverbacks are hoping that in Reinaldo Navia and Stephen Ademolu they have found the offensive spark that team lacked last year and has lacked to a degree this preseason. Unfortunately neither player arrived during the preseason and likely won’t be playing in the first few games of the season.  Add that with the fact that 2011 leading scorer Matt Horth is recovering from an injured and the Silverbacks may struggle to put many points on the board at the start of this season.

Former Canadian national team forward Stephen Ademolu feels like he has something to prove.  After an injury in 2010 prevented him from making the move to MLS he now feels he needs to show he’s back to the level he was when he played in Europe with four different clubs in Sweden, Norway, and Lithuania from 2004-2010.  Ademolu meet with the US Consulate in Toronto last Tuesday (4/3) and should be arriving next week.

Reinaldo Navia, the 33-year-old striker, comes to Atlanta after spending the 2011 season with Ñublense of the Chilean first division.   Prior to his stint with Ñublense, Navia played for some of Latin America’s most prestigious clubs including Mexican giants Club América and Monterrey and Ecuadorian powerhouse LDU Quito. Navia also represented Chile 40 times and scored 10 goals along the way. Navia is scheduled to arrive today if all goes as planned.

So which new addition do you think will have the most impact in 2012? Do you think there is enough talent to get the team to the playoffs this season?

Countdown to Opening Kick: Sponsorship

To many die-hard soccer fans the increase of sponsorship is a sign of growth and acceptance of the sport.  They also know that it is this additional revenue that is necessary for clubs to have the funds to bring in better talent and improve the teams success on the field. So it’s with that we look at a few of the key sponsorship deals the Silverbacks have made this off season.

Earlier this week we showed the Silverbacks home Jersey and mentioned their partnership with Reto Sports. In addition to the jersey and training apparel Reto has introduced a new line of leisure apparel that seems to really excited fans based on reactions and purchases. Here are a few of the items that will  be for sale at the Silverback Pro store presented and operated by Reto.

Azteca Atlanta (WUVM) has partnered with the Atlanta Silverbacks for the 2012 season, becoming the team’s official Spanish-language TV partner.  Each Silverbacks home game during the 2012 season will air locally on Azteca Atlanta, with a 30-minute pregame show also being included in the broadcast. The games will be shown via tape-delay on Sunday mornings, and pregame coverage will begin at 10:30 a.m. All games will air from 11 a.m.-1 p.m, preceding Azteca America network coverage of Mexican professional soccer.

The NASL also announced that all games will be available live via Ustream. As part of an expanded relationship, Ustream will launch an NASL “Super Channel” which will create a centralized hub where fans can find content from all eight NASL teams.  NASL teams plan to increase video content beyond live games by providing player features, coaches’ shows, press conferences, and other live streamed content.

The Atlanta Silverbacks also announced a five-year agreement with The Coca-Cola Company, making it the Silverbacks’ official beverage provider. Another dimension of the new partnership is the naming rights to one of Atlanta Silverbacks Park’s full-size soccer fields.

While they may not be the multi-million dollar jersey sponsorships of the MLS it’s still progress and it’s import to see these steps being taken at this level.  So what do you think is the next step for the NASL and the Silverbacks?