MatchDay Memory–History of ATL Soccer (Part III)

Recently my family moved to Atlanta to start the next chapter in our lives. As part of settling in I started researching the history of soccer in Atlanta, expecting to focus on the Silverbacks and the new MLS team which starts play in 2017. To my surprise I learned that soccer has been in city since the 1960’s and is full of interesting stories and characters. So here we go . . .

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nasl logo

In 2011, the Atlanta Silverbacks were part of the new North America Soccer League, which became the second division of the US Soccer Pyramid.  In reading about the formation of the league, I learned that a group of USL teams wanted to break away to create their own league, which eventually received USSF sanction and started play in 2011.  The original 8 teams were:

  • Tampa Bay Rowdies
  • Fort Lauderdale Strikers
  • Atlanta Silverbacks
  • Carolina Railhawks
  • FC Edmonton
  • Minnesota United FC
  • Montreal Impact
  • Puerto Rico Islanders

silverbacks

After two unsuccessful seasons, the Silverbacks won the Spring Championship in 2013.  Because of this, Atlanta hosted the New York Cosmos but lost in the 2013 Soccer Bowl.  The NASL now runs with a Spring Season and a Fall Season, and teams make the playoffs as follows:

As of 2014, the NASL Spring Season and Fall Season champions qualify for the playoffs (excuse me The Championship) and host a semi final match.  If the same club wins both seasons, the clubs with the second, third and fourth best overall records from both seasons combined will qualify for the playoffs.  Their opponents are the clubs with the next best overall records from both seasons combined. The semi final winners then compete in The Championship final (aka the Soccer Bowl).

The current roster of the NASL includes these eleven teams:

  • Tampa Bay Rowdies
  • Fort Lauderdale Strikers
  • Atlanta Silverbacks
  • Carolina Railhawks
  • FC Edmonton
  • Minnesota United FC
  • San Antonio Scorpions
  • New York Cosmos
  • Indy Eleven
  • Ottawa Fury FC
  • Jacksonville Armada

Once I knew I was moving to Atlanta, I started researching the Silverbacks and this is how this post came to be.  In order to familiarize myself with the team, I ponied up $5 for a NASL video subscription and sat down to watch the Silverbacks’ clash with the New York Cosmos.  The match featured a great free kick by Burgos, but then after 22 minutes, the game was delayed about three and a half hours due to rain.  I didn’t wait around but saw the highlights next day. I watched a little bit of game against Fort Lauderdale and watched most of game away to San Antonio.  The match against the Scorpions was 0-0 at the half but two goals gave Scorpions win.  Sandoval scored a fantastic goal late to insert some drama into game.

sunset at silverbacks park

My next step was to attend a game, so the family went to down to Silverbacks Park to see the hosts play one of the top teams of the 2014 season—San Antonio Scorpions.  The club plays its home games at Atlanta Silverbacks Park, which houses a 5000-seat stadium. Based on attendance figures from Wikipedia and the Doherty Soccer blog, the club has been averaging over 4000 fans for the last three seasons.

In advance of the game, I reached out to Terminus Legion about hanging out with them at their tailgate.  They welcomed us with open arms and we were able to share a beer and a hot dog on a glorious fall evening.  May I say that the Brown Ale from Red Brick was quite tasty.

After cleaning up we marched to the stadium and took up our seats in section 301.  The weather was perfect and the group was ready to go.  Our capo was losing his voice during the match but we powered through. The Home Depot tool caddy, which served as our drum, was not so fortunate, and didn’t even make it to halftime. The Silverbacks played well and were unlucky to be on the wrong end of the 1-0 scoreline.  The hosts nearly scored in front of us on the Scorpion goalie, alternately called Barney and Grimace due to his purple shirt.

TL halloween

All in all a wonderful evening.  Picked up another scarf and made plans to make it back to Silverbacks Park before the end of the season.  I was able to attend the final regular season home against the Carolina Railhawks.  Again I tailgated with Terminus Legion, who had invited the die hard Railhawk fans who had made the trip over.  Another defeat but a great atmosphere was created by Terminus Legion, who got a girls youth team that was sitting next to us involved in some cheers.  The game ended with the Legion leading chants based around the theme keeping the Silverbacks, with the team’s future uncertain at that point.

During the 2014 season the team finished 8th with 3 wins 1 draw and 5 losses in the Spring.  The Fall campaign was not much better, with the Silverbacks at the bottom of the final combined table.

SOS banner

After the season Atlanta supporters groups came together in an effort for #SOS Save Our Silverbacks.  Several meetings were held both on and off line and it was great to see the creative juices following and arguments developed and assessed.  Efforts were made to increase awareness and be part of the solution, and a rally was held in early November to show the NASL, the media and the Atlanta Soccer community that there was a desire for a team, and the cause was picked up  on social media by supporter groups, who showed their support. The result of those efforts was that the league will run the team in 2015 while a search is made for a new ownership group.

SOS march

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These posts are based on internet research so may be incorrect or incomplete. Please reach out to me at austinlong1974@gmail.com with any comments or corrections.

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