Atlanta, GA (April 14th, 2018) – The Atlanta Silverbacks defeated the Gulf Coast Premier League side AFC Mobile 6-0 in a preseason friendly Saturday evening at Silverbacks Park. Atlanta was led by veteran forward Alex Nyarko Harlley with two goals.
On the most pleasant evening in recent Silverbacks Park history, the story was the Atlanta backline. Veteran defenders like Mo Issahaku, Ebrime Njie, and Abraham Lansana surprised no one in their impressive shutout effort. On the edges, it was newcomers RB Ryan Marcano and LB Brian Pretel Plata that surprised with their stout defending and opportunistic approach on the wings. The masterful defending took place in front of GK Bryce Billington, who snagged the shutout in the convincing win.
Along with Harlley, four other Silverbacks got on the scoreboard: M Aaron Walker, F Kebba Demba, M Joao Johanning Mora, and F Thierry Jules. The depth of Atlanta’s potent attack kept AFC Mobile on its heels for most of the 90 minutes.
Speedy right back/winger Ryan Marcano played his first match with the Silverbacks following a career at Greater Atlanta Christian, Virginia Tech, and Oglethorpe University. When talking about his threatening speed, Ryan noted that having teammates that know him well makes things easier, “My teammates found me easily. We’ve been working on all of this for the past few months and it really showed today.”
The fitness of a player at this point in the preseason is always a topic of conversation. Ryan was emphatic when asked if he felt fully match fit, “Yes, I have been working really hard over the past year, dating back to last summer in preparation for Oglethorpe.”
Offensive juggernaut Alex Nyarko Harlley led the way for Atlanta, earning a brace including a brilliant set piece goal from roughly 20 yards out. Like Marcano, he was asked about the shape he is currently in, “I am almost surprised. I’m feeling really good right now. I am excited for this year. We went through a lot last season.”
The team underwent quite a transformation as 2017 head coach Phoday Dolleh transitioned back to his role as general manager. Bringing in a coach like Roberto Neves has been a breath of fresh air for the entire organization. “I enjoy [Coach Neves’] style. We run the system in training often: pass the ball, pass the ball, find a winger, find a striker. I’m excited about what it has been and what it can be this season.”
Specifically, Harlley played more on the edge of the attack, showcasing his ball handling and raw speed. When asked if he preferred the wing positioning versus his forward striker position of 2017, he emphatically agreed. “I feel like the wing is where I belong [vs. the striker]. I feel more comfortable and can move freely. I give credit to Coach, he gives me a lot of freedom to do the job.”
A veteran like Harlley knows you must move on from a match like this quickly. He wasted no time in thinking ahead. “Everyone is looking forward to next week against Jacksonville. You never know who is watching you play, so I am excited to prepare for next week.”
The ever-joyful head coach Roberto Neves knew tonight’s result was not a one-time occurrence, but rather a culmination of hard work that began in January. “You saw the results because we put in the work. I was supposed to start as head coach two weeks ago, but we started our program three months ago. That’s why we were able to pass and communicate so well tonight.”
It was evident the level of competition from AFC Mobile was not equal to what Atlanta will see in the NPSL season. This, however, did not change Neves’ approach, “I try to respect all teams, but I am still going to try to beat everyone.”
The Silverbacks will continue to prepare for the NPSL season with another home friendly next Saturday. Atlanta hosts Jacksonville Armada on April 21st at 5:00 PM. As a part of the Fan Appreciation Preseason, admission will be free!