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Free kick goal costs Silverbacks important win

ATLANTA -- Brad Stisser made his first start for the Silverbacks on Saturday night. He netted his first goal in the 60th minute after nearly stealing one nine seconds into the second half.

But despite his great play, Atlanta's hold on first place was snatched away with one kick off the boot of FC Edmonton's Neil Hlavaty.

The Eddies' midfielder struck a world-class free kick from 30 yards out into the upper left corner of Atlanta's goal, knotting up the game in the 70th minute and sealing the final 1-1 score.

"It's definitely something we train," Hlavaty said of his strike. "The ball being in the middle of the field gives you a couple of options to do. I picked one out, and it worked."

Atlanta goalkeeper Eric Ati, a Grayson grad, lined his four-man wall up on the post to his right. But the shot was struck so well that David Beckham might have been impressed.

"I definitely gave it to (Hlavaty) after the game," Ati said. "Not really much you can do when the ball's put upper 90. We could've done a little better at not giving up free kicks because that's where they were strongest. But that's what happens in the game, you know."

With Carolina pulling out a late victory with two goals in stoppage time against Tampa Bay, the RailHawks jumped back into first place by a point. It made Saturday's game one Atlanta (4-2-2, 14 points) will regret not winning with just four games left on its spring schedule.

"(We will regret it) not one of these days -- right now," Atlanta Coach Brian Haynes said. "We had an opportunity to finish a game off and we didn't. That's what happens when you play against a wounded animal. You've got to take it out of its misery."

The Silverbacks outshot Edmonton (2-3-4, 10 points) by a 15-7 margin, thanks in a large part to playing up a man for an hour after Chris Nurse was sent off with a second yellow card in the 31st minute. But Atlanta could only muster the one goal.

Stisser took off like a football wide receiver on the second half kickoff with the game scoreless. He received the ball just outside the 18 and put it into the net for what looked like a 1-0 lead. But the linesman called a handball, negating the score.

"It felt really good getting the start," Stisser said. "I just wanted to make sure I put in the work and helped the team. The goal felt great, but it's bittersweet because I'd give it up for the three points any day."

Central grad Borfor Carr nearly put Atlanta up 1-0 with the Silverbacks' best chance of the first half. Stisser received a long ball on the right side and sent in a cross to Carr. But a little indecisiveness led to a bad header that went wide left of an open net.

"I changed my mind last minute," Carr said. "I was going in feet, but it was a little high. It was a last-minute decision, so I went low with a diving header and didn't hit it the way I wanted to."