Forward Ruben Luna’s 41st-minute goal has the Atlanta Silverbacks on top over Minnesota United FC after 45 minutes of play at Atlanta Silverbacks Park.
The Silverbacks controlled the first half of play, creating a variety of quality scoring chances. Luna’s goal was the only one of those chances that were converted, however, leaving room for an eventful second half in Atlanta.
Minnesota United, one of the four teams sitting seven points behind the league-leading New York Cosmos, entered Saturday night’s game knowing they needed to get a win. Head Coach Manny Lagos was without the services of star forward and leading scorer Pablo Campos, forcing him to draft forward Travis Wall into the starting lineup.
The Silverbacks, hosts of November’s NASL Soccer Bowl 2013, started the game on the front foot, and nearly went ahead inside nine minutes. Forward Pedro Mendes started a blistering run towards the visiting goal before laying the ball off to midfielder Horace James. James’ shot forced a rebound from Minnesota United goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel, and it fell right to forward Ruben Luna. Luna probably thought he had scored, but his shot was cleared off the line at the last moment by Minnesota United defender Aaron Pitchkolan.
In the 39th minute, midfielder Alex Caceres was the next Silverbacks player to nearly put his team on top, but the Colombian’s effort from seven yards ended up on the wrong side of Van Oekel’s near post. Two minutes after Caceres came close, his teammate Mendes followed suit. The Brazilian curled a beautiful free kick off the crossbar from a very wide angle, coming agonizingly close to beating Van Oekel.
The Silverbacks would get the goal they deserved in the 42nd minute, however, and it was Luna who provided the finishing touch. Caceres sprayed the ball out wide to defender Mike Randolph, who sent in a pinpoint cross that found the head of Luna right in front of the goal. The tally was the Mexican’s seventh of the season, giving him the outright team lead.
“When the things we’ve been working on in practice come off it always excites the coach and Luna got in the right place at the right time, so I’m pleased,” said coach Brian Haynes.
“I don’t think Minnesota is going to sit back now, so we have to be smart and make sure we get the next goal.”
United FC Coach many Lagos said: “I thought the last 10 minutes we weren’t doing as much as we should do and they really raised the tempo. Its got to be about keeping the ball in the middle of the field a little bit more and make sure they react to us.”
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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|