Miami, FL (July 17th, 2018) – The Atlanta Silverbacks Football Club fell 2-1 to Miami FC 2 Tuesday night in the NPSL South Region Semifinal. The Sunshine Conference champions will advance to the NPSL South Region Final against Laredo Heat SC or Little Rock Rangers Saturday night. Atlanta finishes their fantastic postseason run short of the NPSL’s elite eight.
A steamy afternoon in South Florida brought a few showers as the Sunshine and Southeast Conference champions kicked off. From the first whistle, the home side brought the pressure early and often. However, Atlanta had multiple counter attack chances they failed to capitalize on. Just five minutes in, Nyambi Jabang broke towards goal after forcing a turnover. His shot was saved by Miami goalkeeper Vega but a deflection fell to the feet of Karsimi Konneh. He, too, failed to finish on the golden opportunity. Twelve minutes later, Ricardo Oliveira sent a long, low shot on goal. At the edge of the six-yard box, the ball skipped up and nearly beat Vega. He got a fingertip on it to force a corner that the ‘Backs could not take advantage of. In the 21st minute, Miami’s Sean MacFarlane redirected on a corner kick past a diving Bryce Billington to give Miami an early lead.
Atlanta countered with an early substitution, bringing off midfielder Kebba Demba in favor of forward Thierry Jules in the 34th minute. Roughly a minute later, Jules made that sub look like a good one. The tall forward collected the ball in the box and blasted a shot on goal. The shot deflected off of a Miami defender and into the net to level the match. Both teams traded chances before heading to the break level. In the second half, it was more of the same: Miami dominating possession and chances, but Atlanta having counter attack opportunities. Atlanta began to hold possession and threaten the home side in the middle stages of the second half. Aaron Walker serviced a ball into the box on a corner where center back Mo Issahaku missed a go-ahead score by mere inches. Multiple set pieces and favorable opportunities from midfielder David Koloko gave the visitors the confidence they needed to compete. Despite that, the match remained even.
It was Koloko who ultimately dealt Atlanta a crushing blow in the 78th minute. An aggressive slide tackle just outside the box not only gave Miami a dangerous chance, but brought on a red card ejection. The depleted Silverbacks were now down to 10 men. On the ensuing set piece, freshly-subbed-on Kris Tyrpak pushed a bouncing ball past Billington to give Miami the lead for good. Atlanta pushed forward in the waning minutes, despite the man disadvantage, but failed to find an equalizer. The loss ended on of the best NPSL season for Atlanta since joining the league in 2016.
The longest-tenured Silverback Abdul Bangura summed up the initial feeling after the final whistle in one word “Disappointing.” He went on, “We thought we had them. We had plenty of chances. It was one of those nights where the result did not reflect the game.”
“It just hurts, ya know?”
Tuesday’s goal scorer Thierry Jules was asked about coming off the bench and scoring less than 90 seconds laster. “I’ve never done that before. I came in hungry. Coach said ‘give me two goals’. I told him ‘I got you’. I found the first one instantly, but couldn’t find the second one.”
Aaron Walker assumed the captain role after Sheriff Suma’s stroke suffered in June. He was quick to note where the armband belonged. “He’s [Sheriff] the real captain here. We’re really proud of his recovery.” Despite the crushing loss, Walker noted how he felt about the squad after a grueling season. “I’m proud of this group. It’s a tough end to the season, but we left everything out on the field. We can be happy with ourselves about that. We don’t need to be down. We need to celebrate winning the Southeast Conference championship. We played a really good team tonight.”
“We need to keep our heads up and push forward.”
The organization would like to thank all the players, coaches, staff, and incredible fans for an unforgettable championship season!
Atlanta completed their third NPSL season with a second conference championship, both ending in NPSL South Region Semifinal losses in South Florida (Miami United FC 2016). Stayed tuned to atlantasilverbacksfc.com and Silverbacks social media for updates on the team and potential exhibition matches to come.