Atlanta Silverback pulls a rabbit out of its hat

Three years from now, Atlanta will have a club in MLS. And while we still don't know what that means for the future of Atlanta Silverbacks FC, it doesn't mean to the present. 

And in the here and now, the 21-year old club had a match to play against FC Edmonton. With both clubs struggling near the bottom of the table, the game had a heightened physicality. 

In the 5th minute, Rabbits captain Albert Watson collided with Junior Sandoval, with the Northern Irishman getting the worst of it.

Twelve minutes later, Neil Hlavaty read the play well, managing to intercept a Ryan Roushandel pass. But the Silverback midfielder objected to that, and lunged in, winning the ball back, but not until after he had got the man. A free kick was given, though nothing came of it.

Atlanta's Borfor Carr had an excellent attempt in the 21st minute, but his angle was tight, and on video replay, the shot was wider than it looked to the naked eye.

A few minutes later, in the 26th minute, Horace James had a run with Kareem Moses in support, but James' pass was short, and easily dealt with by the Silverbacks. Had the pass been just a little bit crisper, Moses would have an open shot for the game's first goal. 

  Edmonton's Frank Jonke was a force to be reckoned with on Saturday night.

Edmonton's Frank Jonke was a force to be reckoned with on Saturday night.

The Rabbits kept pressing, with Frank Jonke being allowed to run straight up the middle in the 32nd minute. The centre forward moved through the circle, towards the penalty spot, but as three Silverbacks defenders began to close in on him, his shot was ultimately wide of the mark.

In the 42nd minute, Moses tackled Carr from behind, appearing to win the ball through Carr's legs, but as Carr lay on the ground, writhing in agony, referee Marcos de Oliveira decided to issue a yellow card to the Trinidadian defender.

A minute into the second half, Atlanta manager Jason Smith took off a couple of 'Junior' players, Sandoval and Burgos, and replaced them with Alex Harlley and Kellen Gulley.

As we have long suspected, the Curva Collective's reach is growing, as in the second half, the Silverback supporters began to chant "shirts off, if you love the backs," and if you thought weather might have a hand to play in that, by that point it had dropped to 23°C before the wind.

One of the Silverback's best chance on the night came in the 68th minute, when Mike Randolph's cross found Jaime Chavez. But John Smits showed no fear in coming off his line, challenging the shooter, making the save, and denying a second shot by throwing his body onto the ball.

But in the 75th minute, Atlanta got a dangerous free kick. Pablo Cruz's effort was helped by the wall, which didn't get off the ground, and the ball went into the far side of the net. John Smits made a valiant effort to save it, but couldn't stretch himself far enough.

Horace James had a nice effort in the 78th minute, as three Atlanta defenders forced him towards the corner flag, but with a little flick, he managed to send all three going the wrong way, and slipped through the gap, ball still in tow. A minute later, he had a brilliant back heeled pass to Michael Nonni, who had just replaced Jonke.

 John Smits tried, but couldn't stop Pablo Cruz's 75th minute strike.

John Smits tried, but couldn't stop Pablo Cruz's 75th minute strike.

With the game slipping away, Edmonton manager Colin Miller substituted Kareem Moses for Hanson Boakai in the 81st minute. The midfielder's impact was immediate. Though young and inexperienced, there can be no denying Boakai's skill.

Edmonton threw everything they had. They brought numbers forward, they created chances, kept the ball in the Atlanta half, with it rarely leaving the attacking third, but they couldn't find the equaliser.

With the win, their first clean sheet of the season, Atlanta find themselves one point back of Carolina and the final Soccer Bowl spot. Edmonton finished the day as they started, five points off the pace.

From here, the rabbits return home for a pair of encounters. On July 27th, they host the Indy Eleven, while on August 8th, they'll welcome San Antonio Scorpions FC.