After the Atlanta Silverbacks won their second-round U.S. Open Cup match Tuesday against the Georgia Revolution in Conyers, most fans expected the Seattle Sounders of MLS to come to town for the May 30 third-round matchup as the tournament schedule had indicated.
But apparently the Sounders made the Silverbacks an offer they couldn't refuse.
Atlanta will now travel across the country next week to face the Sounders at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash.
"At first a deal didn't even enter our minds," Silverbacks owner Boris Jerkunica said. "Seattle called Sunday morning and asked if we won if we would consider a venue change. The immediate answer was no. They gave us an offer, we said no."
But Seattle sweetened the deal a bit with a bigger offer, and Atlanta decided it made the best long-term sense to make the move.
"They came back to a point where it was just an offer that makes sense and we can put that money back in the team."
With the money received from the deal, the Silverbacks have identified three areas for which it will be used.
The first is a fan appreciation night June 16 against the Carolina RailHawks. The club is offering free tickets to the game and throwing a pre-game party for fans. The response from followers of the Silverbacks' Facebook page were mostly upset about the deal, but Jerkunica said the response from other fans has been positive.
"The people that actually chat (on the Facebook page) are our hard-core fans who really wanted to see us play Seattle, so they were mostly disappointed," Jerkunica said. "But once we announced it, the phones started ringing off the hook."
The Silverbacks have been drawing bigger crowds than in past years to Atlanta Silverbacks Park this season, a 5,000-seat facility. Jerkunica said some standing-room-only areas and bleachers may be brought in to accommodate demand.
"We've been selling out games anyway, so (the fan appreciation night) has meaning," he said. "It's not like we have an empty stadium."
The club also announced that it will spend the money from the deal on additional player signings. Jerkunica said no specific people were in mind but there is a list of players whom might be potential targets. Defender Jose Burciaga Jr., an eight-year MLS veteran, was signed last week by Atlanta and played in Tuesday's Open Cup game.
The final part is an exhibition game against a yet-to-be-determined MLS squad. Jerkunica said it was too early to speculate on possible clubs from the 19-team top-division league since scheduling will play a primary factor and the deal just happened Tuesday night.
Options with ties to former Gwinnett players include D.C. United (Parkview grad and former national team player Josh Wolff), the Chicago Fire (Brookwood grad Sean Johnson) and New England Revolution (Parkview grad Blake Brettschneider).
Former Silverback players could factor into the decision, with the Houston Dynamo (Macoumba Kandji) and New York Red Bulls (Tyler Ruthven) as potential opponents.
For information on the June 16 fan appreciation night game, visit http://www.atlantasilverbacks.com/fanappreciationnight or call 404-969-4900.