Wednesday evening NASL action saw the surging Atlanta Silverbacks upset the first-place San Antonio Scorpions 3-1 while the Tampa Bay Rowdies climbed to within two points of the Scorpions, clinching a quarterfinal playoff bye, as they earned a 1-1 draw at home against the Carolina RailHawks.
Atlanta Silverbacks 3-1 San Antonio Scorpions
The Atlanta Silverbacks have turned their season around these last months, albeit too late to make the 2012 NASL playoffs despite arguably playing as well as any team in the league. At Silverbacks Park Wednesday evening, the Silverbacks put the exclamation mark behind their turnaround with an emphatic 3-1 win.
Atlanta’s final home game of the season will carry over some good memories during the offseason for Atlanta fans. Coach Brian Haynes’ team took a lead before some fans were settled in their seats as defender Willie Hunt jumped up for a Danny Barrera corner kick and snapped a header into the back of the Scorpions’ net. Having earned a 1-0 lead in the third minute of the match, the Silverbacks held off the Scorpions for the remainder of the half and added another goal when a setpiece skipped off the head of Blake Wagner and past goalkeeper Daryl Sattler for an own goal.
The Scorpions, who could have clinched the regular season title with a win in Atlanta, came back to cut the margin to 2-1. Rookie midfielder Josue Soto, on a season-long loan from the Houston Dynamo, unleashed a wicked left-footed shot from distance following a Silverbacks turnover that beat Daniel Illyes in the 69th minute. But with 15 minutes remaining, it was the Silverbacks who notched the final goal, as Pedro Mendes blasted a shot past the outstretched hands of Sattler for the Brazilian’s fourth goal of the year. The win raised the Silverbacks’ record to 7-8-12 for the season, a big jump forward for a team that had only registered one win through the 4th of July.
Despite the loss, Tim Hankinson’s Scorpions team holds its fate in its own hands, as a win or a draw Sunday at Heroes Field against the Minnesota Stars will give the expansion club the regular season title, no matter what the Rowdies do Saturday night in their return match against the RailHawks.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-1 Carolina RailHawks
The Tampa Bay Rowdies finished their home regular season schedule Wednesday with a 1-1 draw against the Carolina RailHawks before 2,100 fans at Al Lang Stadium. The point earned by Ricky Hill’s team assures them of a bye for the first round of the NASL playoffs, as they finish the 2012 regular season having been beaten only once at home, winning seven times and drawing six matches in St. Petersburg. The draw also means that the RailHawks will start the quarterfinals of the playoffs at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday September 29 against either the Minnesota Stars or Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Puerto Rico Islanders will be the other home team when they play their quarterfinal match Sunday September 30.
Defender Andres Arango gave the Rowdies the lead in the 14th minute of the match when he knocked in his first goal of the year from a Luke Mulholland setpiece. The RailHawks’ Ty Shipalane knotted the score just past the hour mark, on an assist from Brian Shriver. Carl Cort of the Rowdies and Shriver each led their respective teams with four shots on the night, while RailHawks goalkeeper Ray Burse was called upon to make three saves for his club while his counterpart Jeff Attinella needed to make seven saves to earn the RailHawks a point. The two clubs meet again Saturday in Cary in their season finales, with the Rowdies still having a chance at the regular season title.