With the 2013 season exactly two months away, the Atlanta Silverbacks are adding the final pieces to their roster. The Silverbacks announced Wednesday the signings of defender MARK BLOOM, midfielder PABLO CRUZ, and forward JAHBARI WILLIS, pending USSF approval.
“I’m very excited about bringing in Mark, Pablo, and Jahbari, who are all very talented players,” said Silverbacks Head Coach BRIAN HAYNES. “As a coach, you always want to pick players that compliment your playing style and can come in and add competition to your team. These three players play three different positions, so they’ll strengthen our team from top to bottom.”
For Silverbacks fans, Cruz and Willis are familiar faces, having spent the second half of last season playing for the club. Cruz, a native of Pasadena, Calif., appeared in five games for the Silverbacks in 2012, and especially stood out in the team’s 2-0 road win over FC Edmonton in September. Willis, an Atlanta native, appeared in six games last season – four of which he started. The 6-foot-3 forward helped then interim head coach ERIC WYNALDA earn his first Silverbacks win, notching both assists in a 2-0 road win over Minnesota Stars FC in August.
Cruz, 21, is a former U.S. U-17 international who played under Wynalda at Cal FC, the amateur team that famously progressed all the way to the fourth round of the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The 5-foot-7 midfielder will bring creativity and strong technical abilities to the Silverbacks’ attack this season.
A product of the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves, Willis is an imposing figure on the field. The 22-year-old forward stands 6-foot-3, and provides the Silverbacks with a physical presence at the top of their formation. Willis played his collegiate soccer at Florida International University before returning home to compete as a member of the Silverbacks Reserves. After impressing during NPSL play in 2012, he earned a contract with the professional side, signing in June.
“Pablo is as determined as ever to prove to people that he’s as good as I know he is,” Haynes said. “As far as Jahbari goes, he’s just hungry. He’s so ready to hit the field this season, and I can’t wait to see him go to work.”
Another player with local ties, Bloom joins the Silverbacks after three professional seasons with AC St. Louis and the Charlotte Eagles. The 6-foot tall defender spent the 2010 season with second-division side AC St. Louis, appearing in every game for the club that year. He then moved to USL side Charlotte Eagles, where he was a regular in the lineup from 2011-2012.
“Mark is really eager to prove he belongs at the next level,” Haynes said. “He has really impressed us in training, and you can see it in his eyes that he’s ready to take that next step.”
Bloom, 25, played collegiately for Berry College, located in north Georgia, and while competing for the Vikings, one of his teammates was current Silverbacks defender Shane Moroney. During his time at Berry, he helped the Vikings post a 48-26-5 record, scoring 13 goals and earning two conference titles. While in college, Bloom played for a few PDL sides, spending one season each with the Atlanta Silverbacks U-23s and the Southern California Seahorses.
The trio will join the club when it opens preseason camp in early March. The Silverbacks will kick off the 2013 season on Saturday, April 13 when they host the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at 7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. Single-game and season tickets are available through the Silverbacks box office at 404-969-4900.
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