November 2, 2013 - North American Soccer League (NASL) - Atlanta Silverbacks
Atlanta, GA - Playing in front of a sellout crowd in their final regular season game, the Atlanta Silverbacks came up short against their NASL Soccer Bowl 2013 opponents, the New York Cosmos, 1-0 at Atlanta Silverbacks Park on Saturday night.
Cosmos forward Henry Lopez's first-half goal was the difference in a game that was largely dominated by the Silverbacks. The home side created countless chances, but lacked the finishing touch that they needed for an equalizer.
In what was a preview of next week's championship game, each coach elected to rest their usual starters. The game featured several new faces on both sides, most notably goalkeepers Cody Mizell (Silverbacks) and Jimmy Maurer (Cosmos) seeing their first league action of the season.
Going into NASL Soccer Bowl 2013 as injury-free as possible is a top priority for both teams, but the Silverbacks had to watch their captain, defender Martyn Lancaster, hobble off with an injury inside the opening 20 minutes. Defender Mike Randolph came in as the Englishman's replacement - an early change that Silverbacks Head Coach Brian Haynes surely didn't want to have to make.
Quality scoring opportunities were few and far between early on, but the Cosmos took advantage of their first real chance, taking the lead in the 34^th minute. The ball bounced around the Silverbacks penalty area before finding the feet of Lopez. The Guatemalan then directed a shot towards goal that got deflected past Mizell for a 1-0 lead.
The Silverbacks generated their best offensive opportunity of the first half just before halftime when forward Kellen Gulley broke in on goal down the right side. The on-loan Chicago Fire forward cut the ball back for teammate Horace James, who saw his low shot deflected just before it reached Maurer's goal.
Japanese forward Satoru Kashiwase started the second half brightly, earning the Cosmos a corner kick and putting a header on goal within the first five minutes. The Cosmos forward directed his effort well, but it wasn't powerful enough to trouble Mizell.
The Silverbacks started to impose their will on the game as the second half wore on, creating several quality scoring opportunities. James stung the palms of Maurer with a close-range effort in the 64^th minute, and Gulley then followed that up with a glancing header that ended up just inches wide of the far post.
Gulley was at the center of attention once again in the 65^th and 68^th minutes, going in alone on goal twice only to see his weak efforts denied by Maurer both times. The 19-year-old forward did an excellent job getting himself into scoring positions throughout the night, but couldn't find the finishing touches.
The better part of the second half was all Silverbacks, but the ball ended up in their net in the 75^th minute. The Cosmos appeared to have scored a second goal, but the referee whistled for offsides, negating the would-be tally. The story of the second half was missed chances by the home side, however, with James, Stisser, and Gulley all failing to beat Maurer from advantageous positions.
All of the attention now turns to the league's championship game, NASL Soccer Bowl 2013, which will take place at Atlanta Silverbacks Park next Saturday, November 9. The Silverbacks and Cosmos will do battle one last time with a title on the line, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available over the phone at 404-969-4900 and online at atlantasilverbacksfc.com.