July 19th, 2014 (Atlanta, GA)- After tonight Eric Wynalda will no longer man the sidelines as the head coach of the Atlanta Silverbacks but a 1-0 win makes his exit much easier.
In January the Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League decided to “eliminate” the head coaching position and allow Technical Director and former U.S. great Eric Wynalda to assume the duties of a day to day manager along with his other responsibilities. Tonight, that experiment ended.
Along with his involvement in the Silverbacks, Wynalda considers his duties as an analyst with Fox his main job and cited the demands on his time had become too stressful.
“It was too much, it was too hard on the guys,” said Wynalda “it would’ve been a disservice to the club if I wouldn’t have stepped away at this time.”
While he won’t be on the sidelines any longer he won’t be far away, continuing his role as the Technical Director and he was effusive in his thanks to team management.
“Andy Smith and Boris Jerkunika took a chance on me that nobody would’ve. I’ll never be able to put into words how thankful I am for giving me the opportunity to coach, to manage, to be a part of this project,” said Wynalda.
Also highlighting the evening was the return of goalkeeper Joe Nasco, on loan from MLS side Colorado Rapids. Nasco earned his first professional contract with the Silverbacks prior to the 2013 season through an open tryout. He quickly took over as the team’s starter between the posts and excelled throughout the season prompting MLS teams to take notice. Nasco had yet to make an appearance for the Rapids’ first team but did make three appearances for their reserves. The loan covers the duration of the NASL and MLS seasons and the Rapids have the option of recalling him at any time.
“Just to be back in between the pipes and commanding the guys again it just felt great,” said Nasco.
Nasco was called into action during the scoreless first half but not to make a save on a shot as FC Edmonton generated a total of zero shots on goal. His patented aggressive style was on display, however, as he came off his line to punch a few balls out of the box on corners and set pieces. He did have a turnover that almost proved costly, sending a lazy pass right to an Edmonton player just outside the goal box in the 33rd minute. Fortunately for the Silverbacks, they were able to recover and prevent any serious threat to score.
The Silverbacks weren’t much better in the first half generating only one shot on target and manufacturing only 46 percent of the possession. Junior Sandoval dribbled along the top of the box and fired a shot right at Edmonton goalkeeper John Smits in the 15th minute. In the 21st minute, Pablo Cruz’ cross was errantly flicked to Borfor Carr whose volley attempt screamed just wide of the far post.
The Silverbacks got out on plenty of breaks but bad passes and poor touches snuffed out many of the good chances they created. It wasn’t until the 74th minute when the Silverbacks were able to break the tie on a set piece by Cruz.
“We talked about it at halftime and we said that it was going to take one chance, I saw the keeper giving me the angle and I took it and it went in,” said Cruz.
The sequence started moments before when Kellen Gully found Kwadwo Poku streaking down the middle of the field. Poku chested it down and was promptly fouled at the top of the semi-circle just before getting into the area. Cruz’ curving free kick dipped over the four man wall and despite Smits’ getting a hand on the ball it proved masterfully placed and gave the Silverbacks a late lead.
“We were screaming, make sure that he took that,” Wynalda said “he’s so cool and so level headed in those kind of scenarios.”
Nine minutes later Edmonton nearly equalized and Nasco was forced into his biggest and toughest save of the night. Hanson Boaki had just come on for Kareem Moses when he unleashed a 25 yard rip that was headed towards the top left corner. Nasco dove and narrowly managed to tip it over the bar to preserve the lead and the win.
In the end, the Silverbacks held on and evened their record to 1-1 in the second game of the fall season which saw them give up a two goal lead at Tampa Bay just a week ago. The team will stay at home and look to avenge a 2-1 Spring season loss to Minnesota United FC next Saturday, July 26th at Silverbacks Park. Kickoff is slated for 7:30.
Alec Campbell, Sports Radio 92.9 The Game
Follow Alec on Twitter @AlecCampbell5