Silverbacks dominant in shutout win over Strikers

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Silverbacks continued their strong run of form on Saturday night, defeating the Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1-0 in front of a crowd of 5,511 at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.

The Silverbacks (6-8-12) were without a pair of key defenders going into the game, as Chris Klute signed with the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer late Friday night and captain Martyn Lancaster was a late scratch from the lineup due to an illness.

The absences didn’t seem to hamper head coach Brian Haynes’ side, who came out strong in the early going. The Silverbacks peppered the visiting goal with several shots early on, and the pressure didn’t take long to pay off. In the 11th minute, midfielder Lucas Paulini found a streaking Matt Horth 30 yards from goal, and the 6-foot-3 forward dribbled in and fired a low shot inside the near post to make it 1-0. It was the 10th goal of the season for Horth, which is good for fourth in the NASL.

The Strikers’ (9-8-10) play failed to improve as the first half wore on, and the Silverbacks nearly doubled their advantage in the 42nd minute. Forward Pedro Mendes forced a difficult diving save out of Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser, who could only parry the ball towards a wide-open Horth. Horth’s effort ended up in the back of the net, but he was judged to be in an offside position at the time of the Mendes shot, negating what would have been his second goal of the opening half.

After being outshot 16-1 in the first half, the Strikers began to test the Silverbacks defense, but starters Jose Burciaga, Jr., Willie Hunt and Shane Moroney stood tall to deny the visitors of any real scoring chances.

From the Strikers’ point of view, the game took a turn for the worse in the 75th minute when midfielder Alfonso Motagalvan was sent off by the referee. Motagalvan was given a yellow card for dissent and then was immediately shown a straight red card after further verbal abuse toward the referee.

With their opponents down to 10 men, the Silverbacks controlled possession and came close to making the score 2-0 on several occasions. Horth, Mendes, and midfielders Nico Colaluca and Lucas Paulini nearly found the back of the net, but Glaeser stood tall to prevent any further damage.

The win provided Silverbacks fans with yet another example of the team’s positive turnaround during the second half of the season. The team is now 5-3-4 since former interim head coach Eric Wynalda and current head coach Brian Haynes took over.