ATLANTA The Atlanta Silverbacks fell to the first-place Carolina RailHawks 4-2 in a back-and-forth affair Saturday night at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
The Silverbacks (3-17-3) opened the scoring in the 26th minute when defender Willie Hunt powered a header past RailHawks goalkeeper Brad Knighton; it was Hunt’s third goal of the season.
The RailHawks (16-4-3) didn’t take long to respond, with forward Etienne Barbara making a move past Silverbacks goalkeeper Felipe Quintero. The league-leading scorer converted from a tight angle to even the score at 1-1 in the 28th minute.
The visitors would take the lead just three minutes later when former Silverbacks midfielder Tony McManus buried a shot from the top of the penalty area. The goal followed a scramble in front of the net, and McManus found himself in just the right spot to have the ball roll out to him.
The Silverbacks controlled possession and threatened the RailHawks goal for much of the second half, and in the 76th minute, they notched the equalizer. Midfielder Grant Kerr, in his Silverbacks debut, forced a save from Knighton, which fell to midfielder Raphael Cox; Cox buried a shot off the crossbar to make the score 2-2.
Barbara, who was strong all night for the RailHawks, made the play that gave his team the lead. The Malta international drew a foul from Silverbacks defender Mattias Schnorf, then converted the penalty kick in the 79th minute.
In a wild ending to the game, Quintero was sent off for an infraction in the penalty area in the 87th minute. The red card not only meant Quintero was ejected from the game but also gave Barbara the opportunity for a hat trick. Barbara stepped to the penalty spot and buried the shot, notching his third goal of the game and securing the 4-2 road win for his team.
With the loss to the Carolina RailHawks, the Silverbacks have been eliminated from playoff contention. The team’s next game will take place Sept. 3 at Atlanta Silverbacks Park against the Puerto Rico Islanders.