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Friday, May 5, 2017

Silverbacks Look To "Hammer The Hammers" - By Taylor Peyton

It’s been a long time coming, but the Silverbacks finally have a meaningful game on Saturday, May 6th as the Birmingham Hammers visit Silverbacks Park. This will be the first-ever meeting between the Silverbacks and Hammers. The Silverbacks did play the UAB Blazers in a few home and away friendlies during the NASL era when the grassroots formation of the Hammers was taking place, however.

This is the Hammers’ second season in the NPSL. Their first season was not the most successful, but they did manage to beat Memphis at home and spoil Nashville FC’s last ever game by defeating them 2-1 at Vanderbilt Stadium. The players returning from last year’s team such as Bradley Louis, Jack Ball, and Marietta's Gerard Barbero will be determined to improve on last year's 6th place finish in the Southeast Conference.

The Hammers have also added some talented new faces such as Pennsylvania's 2003 Gatorade Player Of The Year Dan DeMasters. DeMasters played his College Soccer for Villanova and has recently become a very successful High School Soccer Coach in Alabama. While Teaching Math at Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, DeMasters had led the Eagles to Two consecutive State Championships in 2015, and 2016. Oak Mountain also won the National Championship in 2016. DeMaster’s Eagles have made it to the quarterfinals of the State playoffs this year as well. They will be taking Grissom High School the night before he is set to make his debut for the Hammers, if he does indeed travel with the team to Atlanta.

The Silverbacks will be looking to their big name players such as Mitch Garcia, Deon McCaulay, Taka, and Joao to help guide them to three points against Birmingham, but a few lesser-known Silverbacks players have brought themselves to the forefront in the months leading up to the season, and have the potential to have an enormous impact on Saturday's game. Ebrima Njie has been involved with the Silverbacks for a few years now, including playing a big part in the Reserves team in 2015 that qualified for the 2016 US Open Cup. He didn’t play too much last year but he played a part in many of the preseason games this year, and at the moment it is safe to assume that we will see some of him this season. Santi Loaiza is a young Colombian who is looking to jumpstart his career after not being given many opportunities at his former club Once Caldas. Santi provided an assist against the Latino All-Stars, and also scored a goal of his own against the Savannah Clovers.

This will also be Phoday Dolleh’s first game as the Silverbacks Head Coach. We know all about his eye for talent, and with 20 years of coaching under his belt, he is very much qualified for their job. It might take a few games to get a good reading on what direction Phoday leans towards with his tactics, but it’ll be fun for Silverbacks fans who are into that aspect of the game.

Saturday’s opener will be the first of the Silverbacks’ four games in seven days. SC United Bantams of the PDL will be coming on Wednesday for a first-round matchup in the US Open Cup, and then the Silverbacks will host Carolina United (formally Carolina Discoveries) at Silverbacks Park on Friday night, before taking on the Georgia Revolution in their new home in Henry County. Given the Silverbacks’ history in the US Open Cup, and the fact that this roster was built with the competition in mind, the importance of Wednesday’s game against SC United Bantams doesn’t need to be explained to anyone.

Between that game, and the three NPSL Regular season games, Seeing how the squad is rotated through all four games will be interesting, to say the least. In regards to Saturday’s game, it’s possible that some players will be rested for Wednesday’s game. It shouldn’t be anything too drastic, but it's worth keeping that game in mind if you notice any omissions of players that you think should be starting.

Like every game they play in the NPSL, the Silverbacks are expected to win on Saturday. The Hammers only played one last-minute preseason friendly, and their lack of preperation is something the Silverbacks could exploit throughout the game. Kickoff is set for 5 pm at Silverbacks Park. Have fun at the game if you can make it, stream it online if you can’t, and look for a summary of the game, as well as a preview of Wednesday’s game against SC United Bantams from Planet Of The Backs in the next few days.

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