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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Very Abridged History of the Atlanta Silverbacks in the US Open Cup - By Steven Bayley

The Atlanta Silverbacks have had a long, and occasionally illustrious history in the US Open Cup.  The Silverbacks first Open Cup match really depends on where you draw the line.  Most Silverbacks supporters recognize the continuity of the clubs history under all names associated with the Silverbacks, and for the first team, that means the Atlanta Ruckus.  On June 14th, 1995, 22 years ago next month, the Atlanta Ruckus beat the Tampa Bay Cyclones 4:2.  

More specifically, the rivalry between the Atlanta Silverbacks and Charleston Battery, as contested through the USL regular season and the Southern Derby Cup, has been well documented elsewhere, and although the two teams share a long history, as far as the Silverbacks first team, they have never met in the US Open Cup.  But if we’re going to include (and rightly so) the Ruckus in the Silverbacks history, then we must also include another Silverbacks ancestor club, Atlanta FC.  The current incarnation of the Silverbacks first team evolved directly out of the old Silverbacks Reserves, the NPSL team that served the NASL team with an expanded player pool and planted the seeds for local rivalries with current NPSL clubs like the Georgia Revolution, Chattanooga FC, Knoxville Force, and the New Orleans Jesters, even if Silverbacks fan support didn’t always follow the Reserves to the same extent that they did the first team in the NASL.  

In the case of Chattanooga and Georgia Revolution, the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks played each twice in the US Open Cup, going a combined 4 and 0 against the two clubs.  Most recently, on May 27th 2015 The Silverbacks traveled to Finley Stadium in Chattanooga where it took an 89th minute Shaka Bangura penalty equalizer for the Silverbacks to stave off elimination and a Jaime Chavez winner in the 30 minute overtime session to seal the game.  This match was much closer than the previous years Open Cup meeting, also in Chattanooga.  On May 28th 2014 the Silverbacks kicked off their historic US Open Cup run to the Quarterfinals with a 5 nothing beatdown of Chattanooga FC before coming home to Atlanta to knock off Real Salt Lake, going out to Colorado to see out a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids with 8 men after the infamous Jaime Chavez stomping incident, and eventually falling at home 1:3 to the Chicago Fire.  

The Previous two years, 2012 and 2013, saw the Silverbacks open their US Open Cup participation with trips to neighboring East side Atlanta suburb Conyers, GA to take on the Georgia Revolution.  The Silverbacks won the May 22, 2012 encounter 1:0, a game in which Raphael Cox scored the winner for the Silverbacks. Poku, in the game which put him on the Silverbacks radar and gave him his shot in the pros, played for the Georgia Revolution against the Silverbacks and had a Penalty saved by Joe Nasco.  This game is also critical to note because it set up the infamous selling of hosting rights by the Silverbacks to Seattle, a move which demoralized the clubs fan base, resulted in a 5:1 Seattle beating of the Backs at Starfire in the next round, and some would contend ignited a fallout from which the Silverbacks have never fully recovered as a club.  A footnote to this story is that after Boris sold the hosting rights away, the fans were promised some kind of feature special event friendly as recompense, and 5 years later that event has yet to take place.  The May 21st 2013 meeting was just as competitive, with Poku again featuring for the Georgia Revolution and The Silverbacks holding on to a 3-2 lead in the second half to see the game out thanks to two goals from Ruben Luna and one from Pablo Cruz.  That match set up the hard fought 3:2 loss away to Real Salt Lake on May 28th 2013, which in turn set the stage for the Silverbacks belief that they could knock off the MLS side, and as we know they got the opportunity to do just that the following year.  

So how does all of that relate to the Silverbacks Open Cup history with the Charleston Battery you ask?  Hey, thanks for getting us back on topic.  So if the Silverbacks Reserves preceded the Silverbacks as we know them know, Atlanta FC was an independent local club that competed in both the NPSL and USASA sanctioned leagues in the mid-late 2000’s.  Eventually, prior to the 2011 season, coinciding with the re-start of the NASL Silverbacks, the local independent club Atlanta FC rebranded to become the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves, but 2 years before that, on June 9th 2009 that same Atlanta FC club, competing for their first and only time as Atlanta FC in the US Open Cup after qualifying through the USASA open track, lost 2:0 to the Charleston Battery at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, in a match that may have been a foreshadowing of their future club’s culture, and saw 3 Atlanta players ejected from the game, forcing Atlanta to finish with 8 men.  

In total, the Atlanta Silverbacks and ancestor clubs have played 27 US Open Cup matches, with tomorrows 3:30 showdown with Charleston being the clubs 28th all time appearance in the United States only truly open football competition.  Overall, the Ruckus/Silverbacks are 12-12-2 in the US Open Cup all time, and 12-13-2 if you include the Atlanta FC vs. Charleston Battery match in the Silverbacks historical tally.  Strictly competing as the Atlanta Silverbacks, the club is 11-11-2 in the competition, dating back to the its first Open Cup appearance as the Silverbacks, a 2:0 win for the Silverbacks on June 26th 2002 over the Memphis Express, after a 7 year hiatus for the Ruckus/Silverbacks between 1995 and 2002 due to consistent historical ineptitude and the old US Open Cup format which was much smaller and required qualification even for professional teams all the way through to the MLS level.  

While controversy and difficulties have always seemed to surround the club in all its forms, its persistence in the face of adversity puts it in a small group of clubs in the United States with a truly independent fighting spirit, which has both endeared itself to some fans as well as alienated others over the years.  While the outcome of tomorrows historic 3:30 PM on a Wednesday US Open Cup match against the Charleston Battery remains to be seen, one thing is for sure.  A new chapter in Silverbacks Open Cup history will be written tomorrow, and for those that have stuck with the club through thick and thin, anticipation levels are at an all time high.  

Steve Bayley
Atlanta Silverbacks supporter, Non League America founder
May 16, 2017

Table of All Time Atlanta Silverbacks US Open Cup participation

Atlanta Ruckus 4
Tampa Bay Cyclones 2
Richmond Kickers 2
Atlanta Ruckus 1
Atlanta Silverbacks 2
Memphis Express 0
Dallas Burn 2
Atlanta Silverbacks 1
Wilmington Hammerheads 2
Atlanta Silverbacks 1
Atlanta Silverbacks 3
Carolina Dynamo 2
Kansas City Wizards 4
Atlanta Silverbacks 1
Des Moines Menace 5
Atlanta Silverbacks 1
Wilmington Hammerheads 2
Atlanta Silverbacks 1
Atlanta Silverbacks 10
Azzurri 0
Atlanta Silverbacks 1
Charlotte Eagles 0
FC Dallas 1 (4:3) PK
Atlanta Silverbacks 1
Atlanta Silverbacks (USL-1) 2 (5:4 PK win)
Austin Aztex U23 (PDL) 2
Miami FC (USL-1) 1
Atlanta Silverbacks 0
Charleston Battery 2
Atlanta FC 0
Atlanta Silverbacks 1
Georgia Revolution 0
Seattle Sounders 5
Atlanta Silverbacks 1
Atlanta Silverbacks 3
Georgia Revolution 2
Real Salt Lake 3
Atlanta Silverbacks 2
Atlanta Silverbacks 5
Chattanooga FC 0
Atlanta Silverbacks 2
Real Salt Lake 1
Atlanta Silverbacks 2
Colorado Rapids 1
Chicago Fire 3
Atlanta Silverbacks 1
Atlanta Silverbacks 2 (AET)
Chattanooga FC 1
New York Red Bulls 3
Atlanta Silverbacks 0
Reading United AC 2
Atlanta Silverbacks 0
Atlanta Silverbacks 4
SC United Bantams 1

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