Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin (1) and defender Marc Burch (4) and defender Shane O’Neill (27) fight with Atlanta Silverbacks forward Jaime Chavez (19) and forward Kwadwo Poku (10 and forward Junior Sandoval (7) in the second half at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. The Silverbacks defeated the Rapids 2-1 Tuesday night. (Photo: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
An odd scene played out late Tuesday night, but in the end the Atlanta Silverbacks were still standing.
The North American Soccer League team, forced to finish the game with eight players on the field after a flurry of red cards, held on for a 2-1 victory over Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Silverbacks continued their stunning run, earning a home match in the quarterfinals July 8 against the winner of a matchup of two MLS teams, the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew.
To get there, Atlanta had to survive a wild scene in Colorado.
Four players and three coaches were given red card ejections by referee Juan Guzman while play was stopped between the 62nd and 65th minutes. It all started when Jaime Chavez, who scored both Silverback goals, got tangled with Colorado defender Drew Moor and appeared on step on Moor’s face as he pulled free from the scrum.
“I felt some cleats into the face, but didn’t really see it,” Moor, who had red scrapes below his left ear and on his cheek, told the Denver Post.
Colorado defender Marc Burch, the only Rapids player ejected, then charged Chavez and grabbed him, setting off the melee. Chavez and Kwadwo Poku were ejected first for the Silverbacks, then former Central Gwinnett standout Borfor Carr also got a red, reportedly for using foul and abusive language.
Both head coaches and former U.S. National Team players, Eric Wynalda of the Silverbacks and Pablo Mastroeni of the Rapids, also got red cards for leaving their coaching area. Atlanta assistant Ricardo Montoya also got a red card. Wynalda also got into an argument with a Rapids fan as the left the field.
The long delay added a whopping 11 minutes of stoppage time, which made the Silverbacks’ mission tougher.
Packing eight players back in the defense the remaining 35-plus minutes, they conceded only a 75th-minute penalty kick goal by Colorado’s Dillon Powers. The Rapids, with 10 players on the field, couldn’t get an equalizer.
All of the drama overshadowed another huge win by the Silverbacks, who also feature Grayson grad Eric Ati at goalkeeper, over an MLS foe. Chavez scored in the 21st minute to put Atlanta up 1-0 at halftime and then he extended the lead with another goal in the 57th minute.
The Silverbacks will get another MLS opponent in the quarterfinals, scheduled for July 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Silverbacks Park. Regardless of whether the Fire or Crew advance, the matchup will feature a Gwinnett homecoming of some sort. The Fire’s roster includes two players from Gwinnett, Brookwood’s Sean Johnson and Norcross’ Steven Kinney, and the Crew’s coaching staff includes assistant Josh Wolff, a Parkview grad.