Atlanta, GA (November 9th, 2013)- The Atlanta Silverbacks and the New York Cosmos kicked off NASL Soccer Bowl ’13 on a dark, chilly night from Silverbacks Park in Atlanta. The Silverbacks earned the right to play in and host the league’s pinnacle match via the Spring season title and awaited the fall season champion. The Cosmos punched their ticket posting a decisive 9-1-4 regular season record to advance to their seventh NASL championship game.
Atlanta kicked off to start the match running a nifty play, faking a drop pass, and sending a long ball down the right flank, setting the tone for a Silverbacks strategy that would test the New York back line through the air often in the opening minutes. The Cosmos, plus ten in goal differential, weathered the early pressure as they had all season. Atlanta continued to apply pressure in the first quarter of the half generating a quality scoring opportunity in the 13th minute when Pedro Mendes received the ball off a feed from Lucas Paulini inside the 18 yard box. Mendes, the Silverbacks leading scorer, was promptly turned away by New York goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, the NASL golden glove award winner, given to the goalie with the lowest goals against average.
Head Coach Brian Haynes said he wanted to try to stretch the defense through the air early to try to get the defense to face their own goal.
“It’s not the way I like to play,” said Haynes “but a chance came from it and we could have capitalized on it.”
That was about the end of Atlanta’s pressure in the half, unable to manipulate any real scoring chances outside a pair of corner kicks from each side of the field.
New York, on the other hand, settled in nicely, taking over the majority of possession and getting a few decent looks at the net. In the 22nd minute Paulo Mendes slid a pass to Diomar Diaz who was wide open just above the six yard box in the middle of the field, but Atlanta’s Joe Nasco made a great save, dropping to his backside to make it. In the 28th minute Hunter Freeman beat Mike Randolph on a cut back on the right flank, and crossed a ball to Sebastian Guenzatti who sent the shin level pass sailing over the crossbar. Nasco was tested a minute later on a Cosmos set piece from 24 yards out. Marcos Senna sent a bending knuckleball over the Silverback wall towards the left corner of the goal, but Nasco was able to make the diving save. In the 36th, Nasco was forced to make another big save. This time a 30 yard set piece was deflected right to the foot of New York’s Stefan Dimitrov inside the box. His shot was denied by Nasco preserving the 0-0 tie heading into the locker room at halftime.
In the 2nd half, it didn’t take long for the Cosmos to find their 1st half rhythm. The Silverbacks gave up yet another set piece about 25 yards out on the left side of the field. New York’s Ayoze, sent a sweeping cross through the box, Atlanta failed to clear, and Marcos Senna was able to send a half volley into the left side netting, over the outstretched arms of Joe Nasco, to give New York a 1-0 lead through 50 minutes.
“It was a great touch and a great finish. I would have had to be standing in that corner to make that save on that ball,” said Nasco. “He actually could’ve put a shot anywhere he wanted to. He had time and space, and when you have a player like that with that amount of time and that amount of space he’s going to do whatever he wants with the ball and he capitalized on his chance.”
The Silverbacks, seemingly unfazed, went back to work, earning a set piece attempt of their own, although unfruitful, in the 60th minute. In the 61st Silverbacks Midfielder Richie Menjivar orchestrated an nice rush with a long switch pass to Brad Stisser who was streaking down the right flank. Stisser’s service found Danny Barrerra, who all but whiffed on the shot attempt, and the score remained the same.
Atlanta found themselves on the attack again in the 70th minute, earning another free kick which was eventually negated because of a foul. In the 77th, Barrerra crossed a ball to Shane Moroney who moved in on a charging Reynish but could not slip it in.
It was a frantic last 10 minutes, neither team looking particularly sharp as the Cosmos desperately tried to burn time off the clock and the Silverbacks looked for any opportunity they could.
The Silverbacks clearly did not play their best game of the year, struggling to keep possession for any length of time. Besides Nasco, no individual truly asserting themselves. After the game, Haynes admitted he had to make a 2nd half change to allow his more creative midfielders to generate opportunities from there. Atlanta moved to a 4-5-1, moving a forward back to the midfield.
“We thought we did a good job once we got past the first line of defense. We could keep the ball and we had our chances that way,” said Haynes.
In the end, it was not enough. The Cosmos held on to their 1-0 lead, grabbed their sixth NASL championship, and the Silverbacks extended a three game losing streak that saw them lose 2-6, 0-4, and 0-1 in their last three games of the season, including New York just a week ago.
Alec Campbell, Sports Radio 92.9 The Game
Follow Alec on Twitter @AlecCampbell5