The Atlanta Silverbacks Football Club fell 1-0 to Asheville City SC in their home opener Saturday night at Silverbacks Park. After dropping their first meeting a week earlier in Asheville, the ‘Backs needed to capitalize on getting the Blues on their home field. Atlanta also had an advantage of rest, as Asheville City travelled to Chattanooga FC and earned a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night. Atlanta has now dropped back-to-back matches after taking three points from Emerald Force SC in Knoxville on May 16th.
The match began with both offenses failing to create many chances, as the back lines ruled the day in the first thirty minutes. The Atlanta defense held up well most of the match, but one mistake would cost them the three points. Asheville City finally broke the tie in the 35th minute when Kristian Moore-Cowell rocketed a shot on goal. The ball deflected off of defender Ebrima ‘Tacchi’ Njie and left goalkeeper Theo Blachon leaning the wrong direction.
Atlanta’s offense failed to produce its usual dangerous chances in the first 45 minutes. Head coach Roberto Neves shuffled the lineup and formation for Saturday’s match, as he moved captain Sheriff Suma to left back, added forward Avery Shepard to the midfield, and inserted forward Karsimi Konneh up front for his first start of the year. At the half, the ‘Backs reverted back to a typical lineup, adding dynamic forward “Keka” Kamara and left back Ibrahima Sissoko and shifting Suma from the back line to the attacking midfield. The change produced the best chances of the night for Atlanta. Keka aggressively challenged the back line of Asheville City and goalkeeper Parker Siegfried. Although the push created positive momentum and re-engaged the crowd, the ‘Backs failed to find the back of the net. Once Asheville City made an adjustment to the new-look Silverbacks, there was no breaking the scoreboard for the home side.
Most Silverbacks players mentioned that Asheville City’s back line was improved from last season and made this a frustrating opening night at Silverbacks Park.
“They are a tough back line,” Mo Issahaku said. “We knew they would be organized after playing them last week. We tried. We busted our butts. But we couldn’t get the end result.”
Captain Sheriff Suma echoed similar sentiments.
“They got a chance and they scored. That’s football. If you have one chance, you have to make it. Once they scored, they dropped back the rest of the match and played safe.”
Forward Avery Shepard earned his first action of the season, playing the first 45 minutes. He admitted the Blues were on point defensively, but also noted there was no reason the ‘Backs could not answer.
“I think [Asheville City] was more organized than they were last year. But again, we’ve got talented guys up top and in the midfield. So I think we should be able to break that down. At times, the final ball was off or we just weren’t on the same page and they got a lucky goal. You live and you learn.”
After starting at left back for the first time with this team, captain Sheriff Suma was shifted to the attacking midfield after half time. He mentioned that the midfield and with a player like Keka is where he is most comfortable.
“I feel much more comfortable playing up front [with Keka]. He’s fast and quick with his head. I told him [Coach] ‘I want to play more forward’. I feel that we are slow to come up when I’m in the back. I feel when can move faster and I can contribute from the penalty area up front.”
When asked if he takes this slide personally as the team captain, Sheriff did not mince words.
“Yes, I take responsibility for this. I take responsibility for every match, practice. We talked about turning up our play this week. We have to sacrifice for the team, for ourselves, and for our fans.”
Center back Mo Issahaku looked forward to the week ahead, specifically Wednesday’s cross-town rivalry matchup.
“We can’t go down three in a row, so we need to get the win Wednesday night.”
The loss drops Atlanta to 1-0-2 (1.00 PPG) on the season, while the win boosts Asheville City to 2-3-0 (1.80 PPG). Atlanta began this season with four of five away matches, the lone home match being dropped Saturday night. They continue a tough road trip Wednesday night on the southside of Atlanta. Georgia Revolution FC look to continue their fast start (2-3-0, 1.80 PPG) while Atlanta needs to bounce back from the pair of Asheville City defeats. Georgia Revolution FC earned a 1-1 draw at Greenville FC Saturday night.
After Wednesday night’s installment of the Atlanta derby, the ‘Backs will make their first-ever trip to Greenville to face the first-year side next Saturday night.
Contributor: Jordan Coker/Atlanta Silverbacks FC
Photo Credit: Dave Williamson