Asheville City scored a vital first-half goal and dug its heels in for the rest of the match to accomplish the first clean sheet in club history as it swept the rival Atlanta Silverbacks with a 1-0 victory.
Both teams came out timid as they refamiliarized themselves with each other’s style of play. But after the first 10 minutes, the Asheville City offense began to string some runs together while the defense suffocated Atlanta’s attacking efforts.
The physicality of the previous meeting between the two reappeared. The teams traded fouls, but Atlanta committed the more serious offenses, picking up two yellow cards in the 30th minute as Nathan Watt was tackled violently.
The Blues got their best look at goal a few minutes later in the 34th minute when they had two shots right at the goalkeeper, but Atlanta was somehow able to clear. Not discouraged, Asheville City regained possession and Kristian Moore-Cowell found himself with space just outside of the box. Moore-Cowell ripped a shot that bounced off an Atlanta defender and the left post before it found the back of the net to give the Blues a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute.
The Asheville City defense kept Atlanta from creating any dangerous chances for the rest of the half and went to the locker room holding its one-goal advantage.
When the whistle blew to restart the match, it was obvious Atlanta wasn’t going to sit back and let Asheville City win going away. Atlanta subbed on speedster Mohammed “Keka” Kamara and he pressed the Blues defense early, creating numerous chances in the box, forcing goalkeeper Parker Siegfried to make clutch saves.
The Blues were able to adjust as they methodically protected possession and smothered all Atlanta attacks to frustrate the home side and its supporters. The Blues gave themselves some chances on the counter attack but just couldn’t find another goal. With each passing minute, Atlanta desperately looked for offense, but the Asheville City defense made sure one goal was all that was needed.
The final whistle sounded after five minutes of added time, giving the Blues their first road win of the season and a share of the top of the conference table. Asheville City will return home to play a friendly against the Savannah Clovers on Tuesday at Memorial Stadium.
Contributor: Alex Mcloughlin/Asheville City SC
Photo Credit: Shane Burke/Asheville City SC