Atlanta, GA (April 24th, 2018) – The Atlanta Silverbacks Football Club earned a 1-1 draw against fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada Saturday afternoon at Silverbacks Park. The match was a final preseason tune-up for both sides before the start of the NPSL regular season in May.
In direct contrast to the 6-0 domination of AFC Mobile the previous week, Atlanta failed to maintain a consistent possession most of the match. Jacksonville successfully executed their strategy of holding the ball and not allowing a lethal Atlanta counter-attack to get into a rhythm. For most of the first half, it was the Armada on the attack. The closest chance came off a set piece where GK Bryce Billington held the near post, but a lofted ball to the far post had to be cleared at the last second by DM Ricardo Oliveira. Unfortunately, Oliveira could not hold off the barrage the entire match, as J.C. Banks receive a ball in the 6-yard box. He beat both Oliveira and Billington to give Jacksonville a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
After the intermission, the Silverbacks began to show why they are believed to be one of the more talented rosters in the NPSL. The usual offensive threats of Joao Johanning Mora and Alex Nyarko Harlley earned plenty of scoring opportunities, but it was new midfielder Aaron Walker that, for the second week in a row, showed tremendous creativity and ball handling ability in the attack. Given all that, it was a defensive blunder by Jacksonville that helped Atlanta get level. An errant back pass by the Armada defense allowed Joao Johanning Mora to intercept deep in the 18-yard box for Jacksonville. He buried the shot by the unsuspecting goalkeeper and leveled the match.
After the friendly, general manager Phoday Dolleh was pleased with the effort given and adjustments made. “I’m really proud of the guys, and the coaching staff is doing great job. This was a good test. In the first half, we allowed too much possession by Jacksonville. In the second half, we managed to recollect a bit and start to play our game.” Dolleh noted that an important aspect of the preseason was the team’s chemistry on the field. Specifically, he pointed out three players. “I think Alex [Nyarko Harlley] has improved greatly over the offseason, both physically on the field and mentally. Another guy I am impressed with is Ryan [Marcano]. He has a great future. He’s improving, but he can still get dirty when he needs to and has great wheels. Then Aaron Walker: he is a quality midfielder that is skilled on the ball.”
Joao Johanning Mora was complementary of the Armada after the draw. “We played a great team. Learned a lot today. They moved the ball great, but we played well.”
He is used to being the team’s primary goal scorer, although he should not have to lift as heavy a load with the talent on this roster. On Saturday, the equalizer was off of a defensive mistake by Jacksonville, but Joao noted “the goalkeeper made a big mistake, but the top goal scorer on the team has to capitalize on those.” And he did in the 59th minute Saturday afternoon.
Captain Sheriff Suma is getting comfortable with the new location, new team, and new teammates. It’s a very good experience here with this team and with coach. We have a lot of talent.” He has encouraged the players around him, even saying “I tell Alex you’re the best player on this team. We already know our roles, we feel like we’re gelling very well.”
Suma is another player that has versatility, able to play as a forward-playing midfielder or a defender on the back line. When asked by Justin Hanover where he preferred to play: “I prefer playing the midfield, I can run all day box to box.” Justin noted “You’re not a young man anymore!”
“But the heart is there,” Sheriff said, with a smirk.
The Silverbacks kick off the 2018 NPSL season on the road, facing the Emerald Force in Knoxville, TN on Wednesday, May 16th at 7:00 PM. Atlanta hosts Asheville City SC in their home opener on Saturday, May 26th at 7:00 PM. Get individual match tickets here and commit to a season ticket package here.