BLAINE, Minn. — The Atlanta Silverbacks shut out Minnesota Stars FC 2-0 Saturday night at NSC Stadium to give interim head coach Eric Wynalda his first win in charge of the team.
The Silverbacks’ opponents were confident early on, fielding an unchanged side from their 4-0 win on Wednesday night over the Puerto Rico Islanders. But it was the Silverbacks (2-5-9, 11 points) who took charge first. Just nine minutes in, forward Jahbari Willis, playing in his first professional game, tapped the ball up to forward Matt Horth, who pounded an eight-yard shot low into the net past Stars goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel to make it 1-0.
The Stars (6-5-4, 23 points) continued to put pressure on the visiting defense, and it nearly paid off in the 17th minute. Midfielder Simone Bracalello, who looked dangerous in the first half, whipped a well-placed cross into the penalty area, but forward Martin Nuñez’s free header flew over the crossbar.
Willis was involved again for the Silverbacks in the 31st minute, this time combining with midfielder Nico Colaluca. The 6-foot-3 forward was on the end of a bending cross from Colaluca, but his glancing header scooted just wide of the far post.
Bracalello had a good opportunity for the Stars 10 minutes later, smashing a 35-yard free kick toward the goal, but his effort was straight at Silverbacks goalkeeper Daniel Illyes.
The Silverbacks came out of the locker room at halftime with a purpose, and within the first three minutes, they were threatening the Stars’ goal. Midfielder Ciaran O’Brien sent a cross into the box towards Willis, but his sliding effort fell just wide.
It was the home team creating the next quality chance, and in the 59th minute, it was Nuñez nearly finding the net once more for the Stars. Midfielder Neil Hlavaty beat the offside trap and slid a ball into Nuñez, who could only guide a soft effort toward Illyes from close range. It was the best chance of the half for the Stars, who struggled to find their way offensively all night long.
The Silverbacks looked stronger as the second half wore on and caused the Stars problems with their ball pressure. Willis illustrated this perfectly when he stripped Hlavaty in the midfield, took a few touches, and fed a streaking Borfor "Buff" Carr in the 75th minute. Carr, a Central grad, beat the charging defender and chipped a shot over Van Oekel for a 2-0 lead.
With 10 minutes remaining, the Stars had a good opportunity to cut the Silverbacks’ lead in half. A cross fell to substitute forward Amani Walker, and after a scramble in front of the net, the ball popped out to Nuñez, who had a powerful shot deflected into the side netting.
The Silverbacks closed out the game with a strong defensive effort, earning their first shutout since the season opener, and their first win since June 3.