Silverbacks Sign Four More Player Before Season Starts

The Atlanta Silverbacks have signed Josh Hughes, Fabrice Gautrat, Kevin Sawchack, and Bryce Billington ahead of the 2015 season
Apr 1, 2015

Just days before the curtain officially raises on the 2015 season, the Atlanta Silverbacks are adding the finishing touches to their roster. On Wednesday, the club announced that it has awarded contracts to a quartet of preseason trialists, including three Metro Atlanta natives.

Fabrice Gautrat, Bryce Billington, Kevin Sawchak, and Josh Hughes have signed as additions to Atlanta’s defense after successful preseason performances – both on the training grounds and throughout the Silverbacks unbeaten slate of friendlies. Each saw significant time on the pitch, impressing Silverbacks first-year head coach Gary Smith.

“I couldn’t be happier with the additions of Fabrice, Bryce, Josh and Kevin,” Smith said. “It’s not unheard of to give trials to several players and have none pan out. We’ve achieved a lot in that sense, with everyone signing after strong trials.

“These boys will add a lot – in both skill and depth – to our team moving forward.”

Gautrat, a 27-year-old Santa Clarita, Calif., native, joins Atlanta after four years with UJA Maccabi Paris Métropole and Marseille Consolat in France’s lower divisions. Gautrat featured for the Orange County Blues in 2014, earning USL Player of the Week honors after an impressive debut.

The 6-foot-3 outside back helped lead the Silverbacks to victory in the Club’s, 2-1, victory over the Charlotte Independence on March 14. An inch-perfect free kick from 28 yards out and left-of-center produced a game-winning assist as Jonathan Okafor nodded it home.

“Fabrice, along with the other two guys, came in during the early stages for a couple sessions to get a live look at what we are doing,” Smith said. “Immediately, his professionalism and his determination stood out of the group. Out of all the guys, he's the most experienced and played in USL.

“In terms of additions to the back line, Fabrice brings a little more experience and a slightly different angle to that central defensive area. He's a quite capable lad and he's quite decent on the ball.”

Hughes, a 24-year-old fullback from Peachtree City who played with AFC Lightning as a youth, adds a splash of speed to the Silverbacks flanks. The 5-foot-10 defender captained Starr’s Mill High School to the Georgia state championship before joining Berry College. He finished his NCAA career with 67 starts out of 69 appearances with 14 goals – three game-winners – and six assists.

“Josh has truly been a slow-burner,” Smith said. “He came in early in the training sessions as a very intelligent player, just out of college. When we worked the first couple of sessions, it was very noticeable that he kept himself in really good shape across the offseason.

“In a nutshell, Josh has a really bright future. He's very calm in what he does for a young player and absorbs information very quickly.”

Sawchak, a Roswell native and University of Alabama-Birmingham alumnus, has built a resume that includes four years in Finland’s top divisions with MYPA, EIF and KooTeePee. Prior to his time abroad, the 5-foot-10 fullback earned Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year honors with the Blazers. Sawchak, a product of Atlanta Fire’s youth system.

“Kevin is very versatile,” Smith said. “Initially, I brought him in as a midfield player in those central areas, but then he told me he was a right back. I watched him on a couple of occasions at right back and saw that sharpness. It gave us a bit of cover there as well. In terms of a body in the group, Kevin almost encompasses three or four positions alone, which is very, very helpful when you have a small squad.”

Billington, a 6-foot-3 Georgia United goalkeeping product, caught Smith’s eye in one of the team’s open tryouts in February. The 19-year-old had just returned to Cumming from a short-term spell at Scotland’s Aberdeen FC. He featured throughout the preseason, including significant minutes in a draw and a victory against Georgia Southern University and the College All-Stars, respectively.

“Billington fulfills a particular position for us and brings something that will be extremely useful moving forward for the senior group," Smith said. “I am looking forward to his development and growth with the with the team.”

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