Yet another disappointing Atlanta Silverbacks season has come to an end as they narrowly missed the playoffs for the second straight year. The club clearly wasn't the same team after keeper Tony Roberts departed around the middle of the season. This team had the potential to do much more than what they did. The club was clearly not happy where they ended up and will demand better results out of its team next season. As for this year, here's how the team did.
The situation in the 2000 season was a nightmare for the Atlanta Silverbacks. However, it was not a nightmare because of lack of skill, it was a nightmare because of the loss of Tony Roberts in the middle of the season. The Silverbacks ended up going shopping and started three keepers (and were forced to sign a new back up after Walter Valesky broke his arm) before David Winner finally secured the job. Winner (who is now in the MLS as a backup for the New England Revolution), looked good most of the time but ended up making a few crucial mistake that hurt him.
Walter Valesky: C-
Valesky never got a chance to replace Tony Roberts in net mainly because of dismal showings against El-Paso in mop up duty and the Exhibition Match against the Dallas Burn early in the season. However, Valesky is still young and should be back for another season next year.
Bo Oshoniyi- B-
Oshoniyi returned to the Silverbacks for one weekend on the road in games against Long Island and Connecticut. Oshoniyi let in four goals against the Rough Riders in a 4-0 defeat before shutting out the Wolves the following night in a scoreless draw. After his weekend with Atlanta, Oshoniyi returned to the MLS to continue sitting on the bench behind Tony Meola with the Kansas City Wizards.
Nick Pasquarello- N/A
Pasquarello came to the Silverbacks to fill in the void at the backup keeper position and only saw a few minutes of action in a 6-1 win over Tennessee in early August. Pasquarello came to the Silverbacks after a half a season with the Indiana Blast and has thrived with talented teams like the Minnesota Thunder.
Johan Noetzell- D
Noetzell came to the Silverbacks from the Dallas Burn for one match while Atlanta was still frantically searching for Tony Roberts' replacement. In his one match (a loss), he looked very shaky and hesitant in net.
David Winner- B
Winner was the fourth Goalie in five games for the Silverbacks and became Atlanta's starter for the last 2 months of the season. Winner spent time with the Connecticut Wolves this season and has spent much of his time as a backup keeper in the MLS. Winner's defense seemed to collapse around him at the worst times. He was a good consistent keeper for the most part but made some mistakes that cost the Silverbacks.
The defense struggled greatly down the stretch this season. Giving up 4 second half goals to Hampton Roads in a game that could have clinched the playoffs for the Silverbacks. They clearly didn't have the depth off the bench to bring on fresh legs late in the game capable of stopping late goals. They attained only one clean sheet after Tony Roberts left and it was in a 0-0 draw. The defense had sufficient leadership, but it just wasn't enough.
Richard O' Sullivan- C
The rookie from Central Florida was signed by Atlanta a few weeks into the season. However, right as we was finally beginning to dress routinely for the Silverbacks, he injured himself and was out for the year. O' Sullivan didn't get much playing time but he did look solid in the 7-2 win over El-Paso in June. O' Sullivan should be back with the Silverbacks next season looking to improve his game.
Zion Renfrum- B+
Renfrum won a starting job in the back only a few weeks after returning to Atlanta this year a few weeks into the season. Renfrum provides speed and consistency in the back and snuck up into a dangerous attacking position a few times this year and made the most of it. By season's end, he was one of the only consistent defenders in the back.
Sylvan Bednar- B
Bednar has looked good in the back the last four years he has been in Atlanta dating back to the days of the Atlanta Ruckus. Bednar provides speed, skill, consistency and a veterans attitude in the back even though he is only in his late 20's.
Danny Care- B
Care moved up to a Midfield position in the final month of the season and looked solid there, scoring two goals including a wonderful curling free kick at Charleston. In the back Care looked solid and he has used speed and quickness to his advantage. However, at times in the back he had a little bit of trouble serving the long ball.
Guy Norcott- B-
Norcott has always been a reliable defender here in Atlanta. However, the 1996 USISL defender of the year showed signs of his aging in 2000, he was beat a few times in the back by attackers that looked a lot quicker than him. Despite this, Norcott provided wonderful leadership for the team as the head captain and rarely turned the ball over. His re-appearance in a Silverbacks uniform next year is likely.
Ray Tomlin- C+
Tomlin joined Atlanta late in the season and made an impact. Dressing the last few matches and starting one. He provides good size and strength in the back. However, we didn't see much of him at home.
Tony Soto- B
Soto made the move from Midfielder to Center Back in early August and filled the job satisfactorily. Soto made numerous tackles in the back that would have saved goals. His only weakness was that he seemed to get injured a lot in games.
Brian Crane- C+
Crane didn't get to show off much of his veteran playing style this year but he dressed routinely for every game. Crane saw action both at Defender and Midfield off the bench. At times he looked strong but Nuno Pitiera seemed reluctant to insert him into the game for a long period of time.
In the first half of the season, the Midfield was the Silverbacks' main weakness. They played inconsistently and were made up of mostly newcomers who failed to quickly pick up Nuno Pitiera's system. However, in the second half, Midfielders like Brian Piesner caught fire. The Midfield improved vastly in the second half of the year as they provided a vast amount of the goal scoring down the stretch when the Forwards were struggling. Unfortunately for Atlanta, there wasn't enough leadership in the Midfield to carry the team into the post season.
Jacenir Silva- A-
Silva only netted one goal from his Defensive Midfield position all season, but he did everything he could do to keep Atlanta on the right track. In Silva's final season of professional soccer, he put on an absolute show. It was a rarity for him to ever lose a ball and he made numerous tackles in the box to take a shot away from the opposing team. Silva's leadership was absolutely superb and he will always be remembered as one of top soccer players to play in Atlanta.
Ze Rodrigues- B-
Although his skill and quick feet were among the best on the Silverbacks this season, his strength seemed to be in question after he injured himself badly early in the year and was not 100% until halfway through the regular season. He was probably the most skilled Midfielder on the Silverbacks but he never seemed to get the touches to prove it.
Junuz Coralic- B
Coralic never got the touches to prove how much he was worth to the Silverbacks. The team never elected to come to his side of the field and opted to constantly give the ball to Brian Piesner on the wing rather than him. Coralic scored two goals in consecutive games for Atlanta this season and also assisted some important goals. But most of all, Coralic's passing skills helped set up numerous Silverbacks attacks. It is unfortunate that he didn't get many touches on the ball, and thus never really had a chance to show his skill.
Ramon Luna- C
Luna dressed routinely until Early August, and he never got in the lineup after that. Luna failed to thrive on various chances to show off his youth and talent on the soccer field. Including a 1-1 tie to Hampton Roads when he came on as a surprise sub early in the second half for an injured Brian Piesner and failed to prove himself. Luna didn't dress for another game in the final month of the season.
Jessaia Lissaur- B
Lissaur began to dress for the Silverbacks late in the season and looked good. Lissaur comes to Atlanta from Ajax Amsterdam and started one game and appeared in another as a substitute in the 2000 season. Lissaur provides good skill and speed off the bench and in my opinion, should have been in the lineup more. If he stays in Atlanta he should see increased playing time next year.
Matt Elliot- B
Elliot didn't see much playing time in the beginning of the season (although he dressed routinely), but the rookie from Clemson saw increased playing time at both defender and midfielder in the final month of the year and started a few games as well. With the retirement of Jacenir Silva, Elliot should become a common fixture in the Silverbacks lineup in 2001.
Brian Piesner- B+
Piesner, the former Rutgers University standout was signed by the Silverbacks before the season started after he was sent down to the A-League by the Dallas Burn. Piesner struggled to learn Pitiera's system in the first half of the year, and he only netted one goal. However, in the second half of the season, Piesner exploded, scoring six goals in the final month of the year. Piesner became an extreme threat up the wings and also created a few PK's because of his quickness.
After Patrick Beech arrived on scene a few games into the year, he and Iggy Moleka became to of the best strikers in the league. At one point, they were ranked 1-2 in scoring. However, in the final month, the forward play took a horrible downfall. Moleka only scored one goal in final 7 games and Beech was injured for most of the last month and didn't look the same after he came back for the final two matches. The depth was strong and midseason, but various departures left the team with little depth up front.
Ahmed Moyeldin- B+
Moyeldin was a great spark off the bench all season for the Silverbacks. Pitiera inserted him in almost every match either for a tired Moleka or Beech, or a midfielder to provide an extra attacker. Moyeldin's hustle and good play on and off the field were great attributes to him. Unfortunately for Atlanta, he quit in the team going into the final month of the year, and is now focusing solely on medical school.
Iggy Moleka- B
After a slow start, Moleka played great soccer and scored a hat trick on the road against Raleigh. Moleka excelled with speed and scoring as well as distributing the ball. He assisted on plenty of goals in the 2000 season. However, in the last 10 games, things went downhill for Moleka, as he fell out of the A-League top 15 point scorers. Moleka should be back next year looking to show just how good he is at all times.
Jerome Samuels- C
Samuels was injured until the final month and a half and he came off the bench a few times both in the Midfield and as a Forward. Samuels was one of the Silverbacks' leading scorers this year, but he failed to score this season as he still didn't look 100% fit at the end of the year due to his injury.
Stilian Shishkov- D
Shishkov didn't look good off the bench in the first half of the year and didn't dress once after that. Shishkov was the Silverbacks' leading scoring force last season when Iggy Moleka was suspended for the final month. However, he failed to find his place on this year's team but should be back next year looking to finally get a chance to show his stuff.
Alex Bahr- B-
In his first game with Atlanta this year, Bahr played Defensive Midfield against the El-Paso Patriots, scored one goal and assisted on another, Atlanta played their best game of the season, and he never started again. Why? We probably will never know why Pitiera had a reluctancy to give Bahr sufficient playing time. He dressed regularly but then mysteriously disappeared in the final month of the year. Perhaps he returned to the Mexican League (where he was before coming to the Silverbacks in June). Bahr will always be remembered as an extremely talented player who never got his chance.
Patrick Beech- B+
Beech was probably the most talented player on the Silverbacks this season. He dazzled the crowd with numerous amazing moves and led the A-League in scoring at a time. However, a leg injury took him out for over a month before he returned to the starting lineup with three games remaining. Beech did not score a goal in these three games and didn't look like the same player who once led the A-League in goals, perhaps he wasn't yet at 100%.
Josh Henderson- B+
Henderson had a great season in Atlanta. Henderson has played with various clubs in the MLS and came to Atlanta after a season with the Lehigh Valley Steam who are no longer in existence. Henderson showed great passing and dribbling ability. Although he failed to make the best of many of his chances, Henderson came on at the end of the year. He looked good both at Midfield and Forward and the Silverbacks would love to have him back next season.
The Silverbacks had the talent to make some noise in the playoffs this season, but inconsistency and injuries ended up costing them. The team seemed to fall apart in the final month of the year and they lacked a little bit of character. After Tony Roberts left the Silverbacks didn't really have a leader who was willing to speak up and tell people what it was they were doing wrong. The offense, defense and midfield showed signs of brilliance and looked lackadaisical at other times. Anyway you cut it, the Atlanta Silverbacks should have done better in the 2000 season.
2nd Half MVP: Brian Piesner
2000 MVP: Jacenir Silva