The Atlanta Silverbacks continued their spectacular defensive play last Saturday in a 0-0 draw against the Connecticut Wolves. The Silverbacks are yet to allow a goal since the acquisition of Scottish Premier League veteran Shaun McSkimming. Goalkeeper Taly Goode achieved his fourth consecutive clean sheet in his final match in a 'Backs uniform. Connecticut, after a tough battle with the Nashville Metros the night before, seemed content with the final score. Meanwhile Atlanta seemed disappointed with the result, as they lost ground on Charleston in the Central Conference. But it was obvious that Atlanta had little left in the tank for the match, making the result somewhat satisfactory.
Atlanta was playing their fifth match in twelve days, and due to tired legs, John Dugan was forced to tweak his lineup a bit. Dugan replaced Seth Marks with Sean Finn on the right flank. Up front, Pablo Peirano got his first start in five matches replacing Iggy Moleka. Moleka, Atlanta's leading scorer, didn't even suit up for the contest. Three former Silverbacks were named to Connecticut's first eleven. Sweeper Tony Soto returned too the Peach State as did talented midfielder Temoc Suarez. Infamous striker Patrick Beech also returned. Beech was a great talent for the 'Backs last season. But he spent a lot of time out of the lineup due to various suspensions.
Both teams opened up the match playing very defensively. For Connecticut, Beech was the lone striker while Ihor Dotshenko played up front for the 'Backs, and Peirano played an extremely withdrawn forward position. Both Peirano and new starter Sean Finn were desperate to prove their value to John Dugan as starters, and they both played well. In fact, Finn nearly found the net 8 minutes into the match. A Carlos Parra chip from the right half found the foot of a streaking Finn at the upper left corner of the 6-yard box, Finn hit the ball well, but he had an unfortunate angle and his ball hit the outside netting.
Five minutes later, Connecticut's defensive style nearly betrayed them when they turned the ball over in their own half. Dotshenko pounced on the loose ball and shot just wide of the net. Connecticut's biggest chance of the match came in minute 23, when midfielder Sam Franklin's 30 yard blast beat goalkeeper Taly Goode, but the shot hit the cross-bar and Atlanta quickly cleared the ball. The half ended with Dotshenko managing two more shots, both of them from outside of the box and off target. The Wolves weren't able to muster up any chances other than Franklin's miss.
The second half began without subs from either side. However, both teams continued to play a defensive brand of soccer, hoping their lone strikers would be able to work some magic up front. Ryan Walker entered in place of Sean Finn in the 53rd minute and immediately made an impact. Two minutes after entering the match, an Ian Checcio cross found Walker volley inside the box. Connecticut keeper Anthony Latronica dove to his right and made a brilliant save, pushing the ball away and over the endline for a corner.
Dugan hoped to bring some more offense into the match when Paul Schneider entered in place of Peirano to play alongside Dotshenko. The Silverbacks continued to dominate. Connecticut was clearly in trouble. But the Wolves' defense of Soto, Dean Sewell, Adam Eyre and Max Zeiky held out and looked very composed and organized while doing it. Walker almost gave Atlanta the lead again in the 75th moments after Seth Marks entered for Sean Michael-Callahan. Eddie Rodriguez found Ian Checcio in the right half, Checcio found a wide open Walker. Walker's point blank header had great power, but it wasn't placed well as Latronica didn't even have to move to make the stop.
Neither side was able to muster up much of a chance after that. In the first overtime, the Wolves dropped back on defense while Atlanta attacked furiously. Neither team was able to muster up any kind of chance. In the second OT, both teams seemed content with a draw and neither really threatened to score save for a few dangerous runs by the speedy Beech which were thwarted by Jason Annichero. The final whistle blew with Annichero, Danny Care, Ian Checcio, Shaun McSkimming and goalkeeper Taly Goode attaining their fourth straight clean sheet.
Unfortunately, the 'Backs offense wasn't able to reward them with a victory due to tired legs and a suffocating Connecticut defense. Finally, Atlanta can rest a little before they take on the Long Island Rough Riders this Saturday. After five matches in twelve days, they could certainly use the time off. But Atlanta came out of those five matches with a 4-0-1 record and proved their worth. Despite the loss of Goode between the posts, Atlanta seems to be peaking at the right time. And if they can keep it up, the Atlanta Silverbacks will qualify for the postseason for the first time in team history.
Men of the Match: Jason Annichero/Danny Care/Ian Checcio/Shaun McSkiming/Taly Goode
These five have been on the top of their game recently. Not allowing a goal in the past four matches. Annichero's play in the back has been priceless. He rarely loses a ball in the air, and completely shut down Patrick Beech. Former DC United player and Georgia native Danny Care played extremely well too. Care's leadership and presence in the back helped Atlanta greatly. Also, Shaun McSkimming's arrival has helped the Silverbacks to get over the hump. He showed why tonight...whenever Connecticut tried to attack down the left wing, they came up empty. Ian Checcio also shut down his mark and made some priceless offensive runs that resulted in chances for the 'Backs. Checcio doesn't get the recognition that the rest of the back line does, but he certainly deserves it. And finally, goalkeeper Taly Goode snatched a few dangerous crosses out of the air and set up a few attacks as well with his foot.
This is Goode's final match with Atlanta, as he heads to the Kansas City Wizards of MLS. If he continues to play the way he is now, he may be playing there for quite some time.
ATLANTA - Goode, Danny, Annicchero, Checcio (Bednar 90), McSkimming, Finn (Walker 55), Callahan (Marks 75), Rodriguez, Parra (Najarro 107), Peirano F (Schneider 57), Dotsenko
CONNECTICUT - Latronica, Sewell, Eyre, Soto, Zieky (Erecqu 108), Griffiths, Franklin, Nealis (Rivera 45), Oparaku, Suarez, Beech
Shots 14 11
Saves 2 3
Corner Kicks 2 1
Fouls 14 25
Offsides 4 3
23rd- Griffiths (Yellow)
27th- Rodriguez (Yellow)
35th- Franklin (Yellow)