ATLANTA - With more bullets in the chamber this week, the Atlanta Silverbacks were able to play with more aggression on offense, resulting in a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Impact on Friday at Silverbacks Park.
Macoumba Kandji, David Hayes and Jason McLaughlin all put the ball in the net for Atlanta (1-0-1, 4 points), and the Silverbacks needed each of those goals. Goalkeeper Ryan McIntosh played an exceptional game, but Montreal was able to get a couple of good goals to keep the pressure on.
After an outstretched save by McIntosh, Kandji posted his first goal of the season on a quick counterattack. Kandji took the ball in the right corner, beat his defender on the dribble and beat goalkeeper Andrew Weber at the far post for a 1-0 Atlanta lead.
"(The first goal) feels great," Kandji said. "It gave me a lot of confidence through the game. I kept going. After I scored that goal, I told myself, 'I'm not gonna stop, we've gotta win this game.'"
Patrick Leduc tied the game 1-1 on a one-time volley from 12 yards. Montreal's Leonardo Di Lorenzo served the ball into the area facing away from goal with a kick over his head. David Hayes tried to clear the ball, but the clearance lofted in the air and went to Leduc's foot for the goal.
"My role on these crosses or corner kicks is to get whatever is kicked out in that position, so I was in the right place at the right moment," Leduc said.
The second half started well for Atlanta when Hayes and Rodrigo Rios regained the lead in the 52nd minute. Rios gave up the ball at the top of the box as Hayes was running to his left. Hayes took a right-footed shot and put the ball off the far post and into the net for his first goal of the year.
"I thought we came out pretty slow (in the first half), a bit nervous, perhaps maybe a little bit intimidated by (Montreal)," Coach Jason Smith said. "They're always one of the teams to beat in the league. Second half, we came out and took the game to them a little bit more and obviously got some goals. For the limited time we've been together, I think it's an outstanding performance."
Hayes said he felt more comfortable from his normal role in left back.
"I love that position," he said. "Playing at left mid in a 4-5-1, it was very difficult to get the ball. I'm much happier in the back."
Jason McLaughlin put his head into the game and gave Atlanta some needed breathing room in the 70th minute. Ansu Toure crossed the ball from the midfield to McLaughlin, who headed the ball away from a defender, past Weber and into the goal off the far post. It was McLaughlin's first goal and Toure's first assist of the season.
Charles Gbeke pulled Montreal (1-2-0, 3 points) back to within a goal with a score. In the 84th minute, McIntosh committed on a weak shot and went to the ground to save the ball. Before McIntosh could recover, Gbeke poked the ball into the net for his first goal of the season.