LAWRENCEVILLE — After a terrific season in which they finished with a record of 5-1-4 in the South Atlantic Conference of the National Premiere Soccer League, the Atlanta Silverbacks were awarded a home playoff game against the Carolina RailHawks.
But because of complications with their home field in Atlanta, the game was moved to Georgia Gwinnett College.
The Silverbacks didn’t let new surroundings faze them and cruised to a 4-0 win over the RailHawks to advance into the final.
With the win, the Silverbacks will host Tobacco Road FC for a shot at the conference title this Saturday.
Striker Pedro Polaz led the way for the Silverbacks with two second-half goals and one assist and Gabriel Obatola and Joao Johanning each scored as well.
“We spoke in the locker room before the game and talked about how dangerous this game was because if we get knocked off, the season could finish,” Silverbacks head coach Jacenir Silva said. “I told them that we had to stay concentrated and we had to defend very well. We put a lot of pressure and in the second half we did very well. I told them not to panic and to stay patient and we did that tonight.”
Things remained quiet until the 31-minute mark when Obatola found the back of the net off of a beautiful cross from Polaz to give the Silverbacks the 1-0 lead. Polaz went on the attack two more times in the closing minutes of the first half including a nice bicycle kick attempt, but came up empty.
However, the Silverbacks were able to hold their 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
After several near misses in the first half for Polaz, his hard work was rewarded with a headed goal at the 54-minute mark off the leg of Ali Janadeleh to put the Silverbacks up 2-0.
Silverbacks goalkeeper Bryce Billington wasn’t tested much during the match, but made a terrific goal save at the 66-minute mark to keep the Silverbacks’ shutout intact.
And just 11 minutes later, Johanning drilled a low line drive under the diving Railhawks’ goalkeeper to extend the Silverbacks’ lead to 3-0.
With the game seemingly out hand in Atlanta’s favor, Polaz added insult to injury and connected on his second goal of the night at the 81-minute mark to go up 4-0.
The Silverbacks ran the clock out from there.
“We are very lucky to have Polaz,” Silva said. “Polaz came to us from an FC club in Brazil and we are happy to have him. I got a call from a friend in Brazil and he told me that he had a player that he would love to have come to play for my team in the United States. He’s a special player, a different player and a player that has played at a much higher level than most of these players here in the NPSL.”
The 21-year-old Polaz was very happy with the way he and his team played and is looking forward to advancing into the final.
“I tried to work hard to finish and score goals for our team,” Polaz said. “I really wanted the bicycle kick to go in in the first half but I’m happy we got the win and to get a chance to play in the final this weekend.”
Johanning wasn’t used to playing on a pitch like the one GGC had, but was happy with the way it turned out.
“We are very accustomed to playing on our home field in Atlanta,” Johanning said. “The atmosphere is very good and we always have a lot of people come to watch us there. It’s our home, and this place is a little bit different but I liked it because it was bigger so there was more space for me to run around.”