On Saturday May 6, the Birmingham Hammers defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks 2-1 in Atlanta, Georgia thanks to goals from defender Alex Brown and midfielder David Valverde.
The two clubs met as conference opponents for the first time after the South Atlantic and Southeastern Conferences merged ahead of the 2017 season. The Silverbacks were South Atlantic Conference Champions in last year while the Hammers finished bottom in the Southeast. Both teams looked to improve as they headed into the match at Silverbacks Park on Saturday.
Kickoff began at 5:00 pm on a beautiful evening in Atlanta. The only goal of the first half came in the 17th minute when a Birmingham corner kick found its way to the back post and in the path of defender Alex Brown. The Hammer’s low shot made it through the goalkeeper’s outstretched arms and into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Both clubs saw scoring opportunities during the second half. The Silverbacks drew level in the 67th minute when midfielder Joao Johanning Mora beat the Birmingham keeper and placed the ball in the back of the net. Just moments later, however, Mora received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle at the edge of the Silverbacks’ box. Birmingham’s David Valverde rounded the wall with his free kick and sent it passed Atlanta’s keeper for the go-ahead goal.
The Silverbacks continued to pressure Birmingham for the remainder of the half, but the Hammers’ defense held firm. Atlanta’s hopes were finally dashed when Mora received a second yellow card for crashing into the opposing goalkeeper. The ten-man Silverbacks were unable to find an equalizer and the match ended in a 2-1 victory for the visiting team.
After the match, Birmingham head coach Wulf Koch was pleased with his team’s performance. “
“We were hoping to get a tie out of here,” he said. “So we’re ecstatic to take the three points.” The team is eager to improve from the previous season, but Koch knows that it’s a process.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time,” Koch said. “It’s a long season and a lot of things can happen. We just want to get better every game.” Birmingham’s ambition this season is to make the playoffs. “I think today we laid a foundation toward that,” said Koch.
Birmingham’s David Valverde was also happy with the outing. His goal from a free kick sealed the victory for the Hammers in the 69th minute. “I practice those all the time, so I was confident that I could make it,” Valverde said after the match. “The coach wanted me to take it, so I went ahead and did that I had to do.”
Both coach and player were impressed with the facilities at Silverbacks Park. “I wasn’t expecting this big of a stadium,” Valverde said. “It gives you an extra boost to come and play in a big stadium.”
Koch echoed the sentiment. “It’s a beautiful facility. This is what we’re striving to get established in Birmingham.”
Birmingham have a chance to continue their momentum next Saturday, May 13, when they host expansion side Inter Nashville FC. The Silverbacks return to action on Wednesday, May 10, when they host SC United Bantams in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.