Atlanta, GA ( July 8th, 2018 ) – The Atlanta Silverbacks Football Club closed out the 2018 NPSL regular season with a 1-1 draw against Chattanooga FC Sunday evening at Silverbacks Park. Both teams had secured the first and second seeds, respectively, in the NPSL Southeast Conference and await opponents to host in Thursday’s semifinal round.
Given the circumstances, both teams trotted out a starting eleven that may not resemble one they may field Thursday for the semifinals. For Atlanta, a completely new backline from Saturday night’s win took the field including right back Pedro Leal and left back Ibrahima Sissoko. The central defense consisted of veterans like midfielders Ricardo Oliveira and Abraham Lansana plus center backs Mo Issahaku and Abdul Bangura. That experienced team clogged the passing lanes most of the night, frustrating a usually-potent Chattanooga attack. Atlanta’s early chances mostly came on counter attacks, but yield nothing. In the 24th minute, a CFC turnover gave Joao Johanning Mora the ball roughly 40 yards from goal. That did not stop the new father of just two days from taking aim. Joao’s shot soared beyond the goalkeeper’s reach and gave Atlanta the 1-0 lead.
The strike to give the home team the advantage provided a boost of energy and confidence to the team in red and white. Chattanooga struggled to maintain the possession, but continued to work well defensively and limiting the damage to a single goal. Atlanta spent a majority of the first 60 to 75 minutes pestering CFC with their defense, but it was a break away catching the back line out of position that equalized the match. Chattanooga took advantage of center back Ebrima Njie playing further forward to create a break away. Despite the recovery, Chattanooga’s Pipe beat Atlanta goalkeeper Bryce Billington to level the match at one.
From that point, the visitors became the aggressors. Chattanooga FC continued to sub in fresher attackers and pour more balls into the box. Valiantly, the reserves of Atlanta held strong and showed the depth this squad has. Role players like Thierry Jules, Pedro Leal, and Brian Pretel Plata helped nurse the Silverbacks to the 1-1 draw.
The central defenders were happy to rotate out and remain fresh for Thursday’s matchup. Ebrima Njie and Mo Isshaku emphasized that point, Njie saying “Saturday was certainly a challenging game for us. But tonight, we had to come right back to work. At the end, we just wanted to hold on for that point. And we did.”
Isshaku echoed those sentiments, noting “I think that was the center of the gameplay from Coach, getting some fresh legs in the back. This is our third game this week.”
When Abraham Lansana was asked about being fatigued after starting three matches in five days, he emphatically denied. “No, no, no. I feel like I could go another 90 minutes!”
Center back Mo Isshaku also mentioned that the depth on this team is a strength, but will also force Coach Neves to make some tough decisions for Thursday. “That’s what it’s all about. We’re all here for the competition. When you have a good week of practice, Coach says he has to reward you for that. Other times, you are the odd man out. Everyone here has the ‘next-man-up’ mentality.”
“Anyone here is capable of doing the job.”
The Silverbacks now enjoy three days of well-earned rest before hosting one of two NPSL Southeast Conference Semifinals Thursday. Stayed tuned to this site and Silverbacks social media channels for match details to come!