August 9th, 2014 (Atlanta, GA)- Four hours and three minutes after the initial kickoff the Atlanta Silverbacks and New York Cosmos continued their second match of the year on a rain soaked pitch at Silverbacks Park. The Silverbacks have been unable to beat the Cosmos in four previous matches since they came back to the NASL in the middle of last year and tonight yielded a similar result as the Cosmos came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory.
A bizarre set of circumstances is the best way to describe the situation that occurred. Torrential downpours soaked the artificial surface and lightning sent the match into a delay after just 23 minutes of play and the Silverbacks leading 1-0.
Per NASL policy the game cannot be considered official until a full half has been played prompting an interesting battle between the two squads. With no league official on hand it was up to the teams to communicate with the league office and confer with each other about the conditions.
Down a goal, the Cosmos seemed content to call the match and re-schedule while Atlanta wanted to continue and try to preserve a win over the team that has been their achilles heel. The Atlanta grounds crew frantically tried to convert the field back to a playable condition and the Silverbacks players came out to warm up. Meanwhile, signs of the Cosmos players were scarce at best.
At approximately 11:33 pm, the game was re-started and the Silverbacks looked to protect a lead given to them by midfielder Junior Burgos in the 12th minute.
Jaime Chavez was fouled in the left middle of the field about 40 yards from the goal. Burgos teed up a free kick that flew over the wall and dipped just under the crossbar in the top left corner. It was a gem of a strike, one he said was among the best he’s ever scored.
Things got chippy late in the half when the Silverbacks Junior Sandoval shoved the Cosmos Marcos Senna in an act of vigilance. He was shown a red card and the Silverbacks were down a man with four minutes remaining in the half.
New York took advantage of the extra man and found the equalizer during first half stoppage time when Hagop Chirishian dribbled down the right flank and found Andres Flores with a centering feed right on the doorstep of an empty net. Flores finished and sent the game to halftime in a 1-1 tie.
Despite the long delay both teams seemed to play with plenty of energy and urgency, New York getting the better of the possession numbers.
“I thought we came back in and we were fine. The problem is the red card. That really, obviously, changed the complexion of the match,” said Atlanta head coach Jason Smith.
The Silverbacks have been down men before, most notably when they were able to defeat MLS side Colorado Rapids with eight men on the field during this year’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Smith said it took a few minutes for the team to settle in playing with only ten men.
“I think initially we struggled but once we realized we still had a job to do then we started coming together and played better.”
The Cosmos went ahead in the 61st minute when Marcos Senna capitalized on a set piece from about 25 yards out. His shot went over the wall and caromed off the under side of the crossbar and into the goal, past the diving arms of Silverbacks goalkeeper Joe Nasco.
Ironically, it was Senna’s half volley in the Soccer Bowl last season on the same end of the field and in virtually the same window of the goal that secured the championship for the Cosmos.
“Hats off to Senna, again, for another great goal,” said Nasco.
Nasco, on loan from the Colorado Rapids, will be headed back to the MLS after a three game stay with his old club in Atlanta. The Silverbacks went 1-1-1 during that stretch.
With the loss the Silverbacks move to 2-1-2 on the Fall season and fall to sixth place in the table with seven points. They will play three games on the road starting at Fort Lauderdale next weekend and continuing at San Antonio and Carolina before returning home to play Indy Eleven on September 6th.
Alec Campbell, Sports Radio 92.9 The Game
Follow Alec on Twitter @AlecCampbell5