The Atlanta Silverbacks were crowned North American Soccer League Spring Season champions on a spectacular Fourth of July final day of action and will host the 2013 Soccer Bowl in November against the eventual fall champion.
Brian Haynes' side triumphed 3-0 away to Minnesota United FC to finish on 21 points and watched nervously as the Carolina RailHawks fought to claim a draw in San Antonio Scorpions, but conceded a late goal to lose 2-0 and fall agonizingly short of taking top spot by a single point. Carolina entered the day knowing a win or draw would be enough to finish in first place.
The away win put the Silverbacks a point clear on top of the standings as goals from Brad Stisser, Bobby Reiss and Ruben Luna secured victory, meaning the RailHawks only had to recover from a one-goal deficit in San Antonio to steal the title from their grasp.
But with Carolina pushing for the equalizer that would have hauled them level on points and given them the edge by the slimmest margin of a single goal difference, Hans Denissen struck with his second goal of the game and eighth of the campaign to deny the dramatic comeback.
“I am so proud of these guys and how they played,” said Silverbacks coach Brian Haynes who has turned around Atlanta’s fortunes after they finished one place of the bottom of the 2012 NASL standings. “We did what we had to do so I am so proud of the boys who gave a great effort against a good team and we took our chances well.”
Earlier on Thursday evening, the Tampa Bay Rowdies defeated in-State rivals Fort Lauderdale Strikers 4-0 in front of a season-high 5,034 fans at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, FL to finish in fourth place. Two goals in each half propelled the Rowdies to a comfortable win, extending their win streak against the Strikers to four games.
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|New York Cosmos||14||9||4||1||10||31|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||14||5||5||4||3||20|
|Minnesota United FC||14||6||2||6||2||20|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||14||5||3||6||-2||18|
|San Antonio Scorpions||14||3||1||10||-9||10|
|San Antonio Scorpions||12||6||2||4||4||20|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||12||5||3||4||5||18|
|Minnesota United FC||12||4||2||6||-5||14|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||12||2||2||8||-14||8|