Photo by Michael Buckelew
ATLANTA -- This isn't how Lawrenceville native Jimmy Maurer wanted his debut to go.
Maurer got the start in goal for the Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday, but a free kick in second half stoppage time went through his hands and into the net, resulting in a 2-1 heartbreaking loss against the NSC Minnesota Stars in front of 3,543 fans.
"The last five minutes, that's where experience comes in," midfielder Lucas Paulini said. "A silly foul outside the box and the keeper can't get it. But it's going to come. ... For the first game, that was all right."
Atlanta had possession and pressure for the majority of the game, outshooting the Stars 16-5. But the Silverbacks only managed to put one up where it counts, and Minnesota put up two.
After a professional foul on the right wing by Mario Perez in the 90th minute that resulted in a yellow card, Andrei Gotsmanov took a bending left-footed shot with pace that Maurer got his hands on but couldn't stop. Gotsmanov and his teammates raced up the sideline, celebrating the lead with not much time remaining.
Forward Matt Horth, who scored Atlanta's lone goal, thought it was a good effort that just didn't result in a win.
"It was just a case of kind of getting the first bugs out of the season," Horth said. "It's the first game. We're trying to build some chemistry. On the whole there were a few mistakes, but I thought we did pretty well."
Minnesota's first shot on goal was a clean one, good enough to put the Stars up 1-0. Forward Devin Del Do took a long pass past the defense. After a cross went untouched in the box, a pass to a wide-open Kentaro Takada was buried past Maurer for a 1-0 Minnesota advantage.
Atlanta midfielder Mario Perez found Horth in the box in the 64th minute to tie the game at 1-1. After a long night of work on the left side, Perez put a pass into the box, and Horth flicked the ball past keeper Joseph Warren for the goal.
"It was great to kind of go down in the history books, if you will, to get the first goal after the hiatus," Horth said. "Mario did a really good job crossing it, and I just got a toe poke through."
Despite the setback, Atlanta may have found a couple of guys to look to in the midfield to spark the offense in Paulini and Perez.
"Paulini had a really good game tonight," Horth said. "He got the ball on his feet, got it out, really controlled the tempo of the game. And Mario just has a great fitness to run up and down (the field). He's got a great service on him."
Former Silverback Macoumba Kandji, who now plays in Major League Soccer for the Colorado Rapids, came back to town to see his old team return from a two-year break.
"It feels good coming back here in the old stomping grounds," Kandji said. "Nice to see the fans out here and come out to support the team. ... (The team) looked good. I saw some potential out there."