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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tales From The Road: The Magical Mountain Tour (Asheville Away)

As another Silverbacks season has come and gone, I feel like it's important to reflect on all of the good times that were had while the season was going on, and boy did I have some good times. Whether it be at Silverbacks Park, Tara Stadium in Jonesboro, Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, Asheville, Greenville, Nashville (too many "villes"), and at the end Chattanooga; it was so much more than just driving to the game, watching the game, and driving home from the game. I like to think I have enough stories from this season to last me a lifetime, especially from the road trips. I feel like I could make a whole series of posts about my road trips, which is EXACTLY what I'm doing. Hopefully, it'll help make up for how many chances I missed to write articles because I was neck deep in homework after all of my weekends away.

Seeing as how I missed the trip to Knoxville to see the Silverbacks play Emerald Force, this series will begin on a rainy Saturday in Asheville.

After one particular friend I agreed to carpool together for this trip, it came down to the next order of business, constructing a playlist for the ride. The main thing I tried to avoid doing was making it too Pop Punk heavy because I had a reputation to uphold as someone who puts a lot of variety into road trip playlists. I did a good job of this... until about 3 hours before we were set to leave when I added roughly 20 additional Blink-182 songs, to the 3 preexisting songs on the playlist. Not that it mattered in the long run because I had so many songs on a playlist for a relatively short drive so we went a long time without hearing any of those impulse songs

With a full tank of gas in his car and my still decent playlist playing on his stereo, we were on our way. Once you get out of Georgia the typical route from Atlanta to Asheville is pretty scenic. Both years I've gone it ended being a mix of Interstates, State Routes, and Backways as well. The best part is when you get closer to Asheville and the mountains are suddenly in the distance. We made good time throughout the ride and made it before all but one of the other Silverbacks fans we met up with.

When you get to downtown Asheville you will have no trouble finding cool little gift shops, amazing dogs being walked on every sidewalk, breweries in abundance, as well as hipsters doing hipster things, but a parking spot? That's far more challenging to find in Asheville and may involve a couple of trips around the block. When you do find a spot, however, you can walk pretty much anywhere you want in the area. For my friends and I, that was a place called Burial Brewing Company. Burial was where my friends and I hung out before attending the game last year and it left a good impression on us so we decided to return. The main attraction at Burial, apart from the beer, of course, is the fact that their door handle is shaped like the Grim Reaper's scythe, which unfortunately it took me a whole year to figure that out, but better late than never.

Memorial Stadium itself is just uphill from McCormick Field where Minor League Baseball's Asheville Tourists play. It's a multi-use facility so, in addition to Soccer Goals, there are also Football Goalposts. The thing I like the best about the venue it personally is how good the view of the mountains is. What can I say? I have an infatuation with mountains.

The game itself was pretty much gut punch after gut punch because in addition to the Silverbacks losing 3-1, I found out that 3 of Asheville's players were also players from my school, Georgia State University. I hadn't had much time to look up Asheville's roster but I heard the PA announcers mention them by name and I had to do a double take. Sure enough, it was the same people I had watched pretty much every week of College Soccer season. When the reality finally sunk it, I couldn't resist the urge to jokingly yell "you're playing for the wrong team! You go to school in Atlanta" at them. I don't know if they could actually hear me say it but I did get to talk to one after the game. He said he did recognize me, but for some reason, he wanted to say my name was Robert, as opposed to Taylor. Little did I know, next time I talked to him it would be after the game at Silverbacks Park the very next week, and I had to ask him what was going through his mind when he showed Westside 109 his underwear after one of his teammates scored a goal.

One moment that probably sticks out for me more than anything else that happened on this trip was after the full-time whistle. The PA system in Asheville started playing "Come On Eileen" and one of my friends spontaneously changed the lyrics to "Come On You Backs" and we all loved it so we joined in, and it has since become a tradition that we sing it everytime we're either on our way to or from an away game.

 After the game, there was the task of getting home, which was one-half walking back to the car in pouring rain and trying to say all of our goodbyes, as well as one-half driving. My carpooling buddy decided a few days in advance that he didn't want to go all the way back so he suggesting spending the night with some people he knew in South Carolina, relatively halfway between Asheville and Atlanta, which I was totally fine with.

Remember when I said my friend had a full tank of gas in the beginning? Well by this point we did need to stop so we found this gas station, and for the life of me I can't remember the gas station, but it turned out to be the best one I had ever been to. It had been a while since I had eaten so I grabbed a LOT of snacks. The kind of snacks that would cost me somewhere near $12 the gas station nearest to my house, but my some sort of miracle it only cost me half that at this magical South Carolina gas station, which is what I will forever know it as because I can't remember the name.

So that was my adventure to Asheville to watch the Silverbacks. As good of a trip as it was, it was probably the trip that was the least memorable. Perhaps I was still just getting into the swing of things, perhaps I've forgotten about one or two other things that happened (I'm sure one of my friends will tell my right away if that is indeed the case), or maybe Asheville just didn't have as much to offer as the other places I visited did.

In the next part of this new "Tales From The Road" series, I will be telling you all about my trip to Greenville. Stay tuned for more reading about the adventures of a lower division Soccer traveler.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Dejecting Draw And A Boneheaded Boris Decision

Before we begin our regularly scheduled blog post, I would just like to take a moment to say that sometimes the hardest part of doing this blog is having to even think about what went wrong after travelling to an away game and having vast amounts of fun even if the result wasn't a win, but I suppose it comes with the territory. The Atlanta Silverbacks shared honors with Greenville FC in a game that ended 1-1 on Saturday at the campus of Furman University.

The Silverbacks had a chance to take the lead early when they were awarded a penalty, but Keka was unable to convert as his shot was saved by Greenville's Paul Tyson. The Silverbacks would later take the lead through a Sherriff Suma goal in the 34th minute, so not all was lost.

The Silverbacks were able to hold onto the lead until the 71st minute when Greenville's Quinn McNeill scored from about 20 yards out to equalize the score. The game would end that way but not without some controversy. In the 89th minute a small altercation started after what appeared to be a dispute about a Greenville playing staying down on the ground, a Silverbacks player yelling at them to get up, goalkeeper Paul Tyson shoving said Silverbacks player, and then it further escalating to the point where the Greenville bench players all stood up and nearly ran onto the field.

Take that description with a grain of salt because I was on the complete other side of the field so maybe someone who was closer to where the skirmish occurred might have seen it differently. But that's my recollection of it.

In the end, only the Silverbacks' Ebrima Njie was dismissed from the game.

Ultimately, the Silverbacks missed too many opportunities to increase their lead, and then after Greenville equalized they had a lot of the better chances in the dying minutes up until that dust-up mentioned above which more than likely killed any chance of either team scoring another goal.

Next up for the Silverbacks is another game against Georgia Revolution on Wednesday June 6, this time at Silverbacks Park. Unfortunately it was announced recently that the kickoff time from this game would be changed from 7 pm to 5 pm, much to the annoyance of many Silverbacks fans.

According to a source, a scheduling conflict between Boris and the team first arose a few weeks prior. The initial proposed solution was to change the date of the game to July 8 so they could appease Boris and still play at 7pm. Unfortunately the date changed also needed to be approved by the Revolution ,and the NPSL themselves. One of which appeared to not approve of this change.

A popular talking point in situations that involve kickoff times being changed because Boris refuses to help the team, is the fact that there are many other possible venues that the Silverbacks could move their game to in such events. It is possible that Phoday was in discussion with other sites, but nothing came to fruition so playing the game at 5 pm was the only option that remained, despite the disappointment of everyone except Boris.

As far as the Revs themselves go, they were in New Orleans this past weekend where they were handed a 3-1 loss at the hands of the Jesters, with Isaac Promise scoring their lone goal. The Revolution continue to fall further down the standings. In first place just a week ago, they are now in 6th place only ahead of Greenville, and Emerald Force.

The Silverbacks currently sit 5th in the standings, which makes them safe in the playoff race, but it could jeopardize their chances of hosting a playoff game. With this in mind, it seems bragging rights aren't the only thing at stake. If you can find a way to make it Silverbacks Park despite the inconvenient kickoff time, it would be worth your time because this game is bound to be interesting.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Silverbacks Look Strong Against "Rejuvenated" Revs

On a humid Wednesday night in McDonough, Georgia, Silverbacks fans from all sides of Metro Atlanta were treated to a dominant 5-0 win by their team over local rivals Georgia Revolution.

Henry County High School is the third home for the Revolution in as many seasons. Regardless of where the games are played they have still been unable to beat the Silverbacks. This season's squad looked stronger on paper, and has already improved from last season by winning a game, yet they were unable to have any success against the Silverbacks that night.

With Theo Blachon in net, and a starting backline of Manuel Moreno, Abdul Bangura, Mo Issahaku, and Ryan Marcano the Silverbacks defense thwarted every Revs attack, the few times they managed to get past the holding midfield pair of Lansana and Oliveira, that is.

The Silverbacks struck first very early in the match when a long ball was controlled very well by Keka, who passed to Joao, who passed to Suma, who passed back to Joao who provided a clinical finish in only the 6th minute.

It wouldn't be the only goal that Silverbacks captain Sherriff Suma would record an assist for as he would later deliver a free kick that met the head of Keka only 5 minutes later. Keka's header went very high and descended slowly but still managed to drop at the right time and sneak into the net.

Keka would return the favor in the 31st minute after getting by a Revolution defender and passing the ball to Sherriff Suma who would go on to score the Silverbacks' third goal on the night. Suma's shot ending up hitting a Georgia Revolution defender but he wasn't in a position to clear the shot off the line so it still ended up in the back of the net. Regardless, it looked like he was standing completely over the line so it was always going to be a goal, and it was always going to be credited to Suma.

The Silverbacks fourth, and arguably most satisfying goal of the night came in the 66th minute when a long ball from Joao was controlled by Keka who took on the lone defender in pursuit of him, made him look foolish by making him fall, going around him, then doing something similar to the keeper, and then walking the ball into the net.

The Silverbacks fifth and final goal was scored by Nyambi Jabang in the 76th minute after he received the ball in his own half and beat three Revolution defenders. A few minutes prior, Jabang was set to take a free kick but slipped while running up to hit it, so one could say that him scoring a goal was a very satisfying moment for not just him, but the fans that also felt a little bit of sympathy for him.

It was a great performance for the members of the Atlanta Ultras and Westside 109 that made the journey to the Southside, as well as other Silverbacks fans that were in attendance. This performance was a great momentum builder going into Saturday when the Silverbacks travel to Greenville for their first meeting against Greenville FC, a trip that many Silverback fans are likely to make.

After the tough 1-0 loss to Asheville last weekend, Phoday was disappointed but still confident that the team was capable of turning it around. "Sometimes the reality check comes early in the season. We just have to shake it off and get back to work. We'll be fine." It's possible that the dominating performances over the Revolution, and even the Emerald Force are what we can expect from the Silverbacks throughout the remainder of the season. Maybe Asheville just had their number in those two games. It's possible the Silverbacks will meet them again come playoff time so that might be a problem in itself, but that's a long way away so for now it's best to continue to hope for the best, and enjoy it when the best of this team does present itself like it did Wednesday night.

The Silverbacks' next game is Saturday June 2nd on the road against Greenville FC, the first meting between the two team. Some of the notable players on their roster include Jose Cubillan who played against the Silverbacks in the US Open Cup with SC United Bantams last year, former Silverbacks player Willie Hunt, and Paul Tyson who currently attends Georgia State. Their last game was a 1-1 draw against the Georgia Revolution at home in which their only goal was an own goal by a Revolution player. Prior to that they suffered a heavy 5-2 defeat at the hands of Emerald Force at home. Kickoff for saturday's game is set for 7 pm at Eugene Stone Soccer Stadium on the campus of Furman University.

Friday, May 25, 2018

'backs Look To Strike Back Against Asheville

The Silverbacks will look to avenge 3-1 road loss they suffered at the hands of Asheville City on May 26 when they host the same Asheville team in their home opener. The Silverbacks have not played since the aforementioned May 19 loss while Asheville played Chattanooga FC to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday, May 23.

Asheville struck first in the game that took place last saturday when a penalty kick was converted by Bruno Andrade in the 7th minute. The Silverbacks would answer 14 minutes later with former FC Cincinnati player Aaron Walker converting a penalty kick for his first Silverbacks goal.

The two teams went into halftime level but Asheville would retake the lead on a goal by Thomas Deeley in the 54th minute when his run went completely unnoticed by the Silverbacks defenders. The lead was later doubled by Hannes Burmeister in the 64th minute after assisting Deeley's earlier goal. A whiffed clearance attempt by a Silverbacks defender left the door wide open for Burmeister who converted his chance with ease. Burmeister is one of three players on Asheville City's roster that currently attends Georgia State University. The other two are Frank Rosenwald and Lukas Joyner. Substitutions played a big part in the game as the aforementioned duo of Deeley and Burmeister did not start the game, entering in the 46th and 53rd minutes respectively.

In order to get a better result, the Silverbacks will have to make sure these defensive mistakes are not repeated, and the attack must not be as stagnant as it was. The season is still in its early days but another loss to Asheville could be a setback in Atlanta's race for the regular season Southeast Conference Title. Kickoff is set for 7pm at Silverbacks Park on Saturday, May 26.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Learning The Ways Of The (Emerald) Force

The Silverbacks' NPSL Season opener will be this Wednesday, May 16, in Knoxville against Emerald Force SC.

The majority of players on the Force's roster are from Knoxville, as well as surrounding towns, but there are a few exceptions. Some players hail from places like Nashville, Wycombe, and even Duluth. A Couple of players to watch are Lucas Altman, who was Wofford's top scorer last year. Connor Jacobs who scored 3 goals and recorded 6 assists last season for John Hopkins. Alexander Garuba who played his High School Soccer at Duluth High, and was All-County his senior year. A few returners from last year's team include Ashley Kelynack and Kalulu Bamba.

The Silverbacks beat the Force twice in as many meetings last season. The first meeting was a 2-0 win at Silverbacks Park. It was in this game that DZ Harmon scored his first goal with the Silverbacks, and Avery Shepherd made an immediate impact by scoring the second goal only 12 minutes after coming on as a sub. The game wasn't without controversy though, as Mitch Garcia posted a picture of his face bloodied up after that game with a caption stating his annoyance towards Knoxville players continuously elbowing him while going for headers.

The second meeting in Knoxville was a 4-2 win for the Silverbacks. That game is probably best remembered as Keka's breakout game in the red and black. He scored two goals against the Force and continued to wreak havoc on every team he faced after that. The other goals were scored by Joao Johanning Mora and Abraham Lansana.

If all goes to plan, the match will be stream by the Force's supporter group, Scruffy City Syndicate will be streaming the match live. A fan's best bet is to keep a sharp eye on their social media, as well as Silverbacks social media for the link. After Wednesday's match, the Silverbacks will travel to Asheville on Saturday for their second game, and then prepare for their home opener on May 26, also against Asheville.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Silverbacks vs Life University Preview

The last preseason test for the Silverbacks comes in the form of the Life University Running Eagles, on Friday, May 11, in Marietta. The Silverbacks are coming off of a 1-1 draw against a very formidable Jacksonville Armada team, and a 6-0 win over AFC Mobile before that.

 Life Unversity Men's Soccer is still a relatively young program that began play in 2016. Featuring Silverbacks forward Thierry Jules, Life's 2017 team went 9-9 in the regular season, with a first-round victory in the Mid-South Conference tournament over the University Of The Cumberlands before falling to Lindsey Wilson in the following round. Thierry Jules lead the team with 10 goals and 4 assists and was followed closely by Wessley Soronellas (9 goals 2 assists), and Marek Beno (6 goals 2 assists). 

The Running Eagles are lead by Alex Pama who is notable for his success as an executive with SC Cambuur in The Netherlands. Pama was the CEO at Cambuur during a fascinating time in the club's history with record attendance, record jersey sales, and near promotion in 2009 and 2010. Cambuur did eventually get promoted to the first tier of Dutch Soccer in 2013, shortly after Pama had left, but he no doubt played a significant role in helping them get there. 

Kentaro "Taka" Takada, a member of the 2017 Silverbacks team, also served as a Volunteer Assistant on the Running Eagles coaching staff. Taka recent announced on Twitter that he won't be playing for the Silverbacks this season, so maybe coaching is the next phase for him.

With the season opener on the road against Emerald Force (Formally Knoxville Force) fast approaching, it's crucial for the Silverbacks to continue the positive the positive momentum they've been building this preseason. Kickoff is set for Friday, 7 pm at Lupo Field in Marrietta.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Silverbacks vs Armada Preview - By Taylor Peyton

Coming off a 6-0 thrashing of AFC Mobile, the Silverbacks will be looking to continue gaining momentum heading into their May 16th season opener against the newly re-branded Emerald Force in Knoxville. The Jacksonville Armada is the Silverbacks' opponent this Saturday, in the first matchup between these two sides since 2015. Ironically my first away game was in Jacksonville, but that's a story for another day.

If you've attended any of the preseason games, or have been following through social media, you know by now what the core of this Silverbacks team is starting to look like. Fan favorites from recent years like Alex Harlley, Joao Johanning Mora, Abdul Bangura, Avery Shephard, and even Bryce Billington, to name a few, are back in the red and black and still very much at the top of their games. Then you have newer faces like Aaron Walker, Kebba Demba, Ryan Marcano, and new captain Sherriff Suma making great first impressions on the Silverbacks faithful. Then there's of course, the entertaining style of play that has been installed by new head coach Roberto Neves, that you have to see to believe.

The Silverbacks are looking promising for this upcoming season. That's a fair assessment. But What about the Armada? What do they have in store after announcing they'll play in the NPSL for 2018 while waiting out the ever-uncertain situation with the NASL? Some notable names on the roster include Drew Beckie, Yuma, J.C. Banks, Conor Doyle, as well as a trio of players who were part of that 2015 squad that played against the Silverbacks in the NASL; Mechack Jerome, Derek Gebhard, and Alhassane Keita.

The Armada's season starts much earlier than the Silverbacks', April 28th against Miami FC, to be exact, so there's a good chance the Silverbacks will see something very close to a provisional Jacksonville starting 11 on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 5 pm, but the friendly against Mobile was delayed a few minutes because the referees arrived late so you never know for sure. It should still be a good day at Silverbacks Park so clear your schedule to watch this relatively high-profile friendly, and cheer on the 'backs to #SinkTheArmada.