The North American Soccer League rivalry between the league’s most northern team FC Edmonton and their rivals 2,300 miles, one border and two time zones to the south the Atlanta Silverbacks is still in its infancy. Only two seasons ago the teams met for the first time and this weekend they clash again, both aiming to join the three clubs locked at the top of the NASL standings.
Throwback Thursday rewinds this week not back to the 70s roots of the NASL but to 2011 when teams from Edmonton and Atlanta met for the first time.
Had the 1980/81 NASL indoor season panned out slightly differently, there might be a 32-year rivalry between the two cities to discuss, but in the playoffs following that campaign, the two clubs’ predecessors missed out on facing each other by one game. The Atlanta Chiefs, having won the Eastern Division, beat Minnesota, while Northern Division runner up the Edmonton Drillers saw off Los Angeles to both reach the semi finals. But Atlanta went down to Chicago after a third mini game and missed out a chance to face eventual champion Edmonton in the final.
So it was not until April 16, 2011, were soccer fans from Atlanta and Edmonton paired in a rivalry when the Silverbacks hosted the Eddies. And it was the Canadian club that took the season double with wins both on home soil and away in Atlanta.
FC Edmonton took an early pole position in the 2011 NASL standings with a 1-0 win in front of 3,161 fans in that first-ever meeting.
On Japan Relief Night at Atlanta Silverbacks Park, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami, FC Edmonton threatened the Silverbacks goal early on. In the 11th minute, forward Conrad Smith sent in a low cross that was parried by Silverbacks goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, but the ball was only cleared as far as Alex Surprenant. The defender then launched a drive from more than 35 yards out that sailed over Maurer’s head and into the goal to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead. Just before halftime, Edmonton could have doubled its lead, but Maurer denied Kyle Yamada from 10 yards out.
Visiting keeper Rein Baart kept out a Junior Sandoval header before Sandoval saw his angled effort from 18 yards fall just wide of the goal and a curving free kick from Perez hit the crossbar. Silverbacks substitute Jon Cox was sent off for a late challenge and the Eddies held on to win.
By the time the teams met again in Canada at Foote Field, FC Edmonton was suffering an eight-game winless streak, but broke that in dramatic fashion with a 3-0 triumph over the Silverbacks.
After a scoreless first two-thirds of the match, Edmonton broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute when Michael Cox found Kyle Yamada, who was tightly marked and his pass found a streaking Shaun Saiko who found the inside of the left post for a 1-0 lead.
Edmonton added insurance in the 71st minute when Cox collected a long pass slid the ball past a diving defender and keeper Felipe Quintero into the net for his first goal of the season and the striker added his second and Edmonton’s third strike five minutes later.
The win pushed a recovering FC Edmonton up to fourth place, but they would end the season in fifth spot and exit the playoffs in the first round, while the Silverbacks finished in eighth place. In 2012 the clubs split the season series, both claiming a 2-1 win away from home.
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