The Atlanta Silverbacks got back on track Saturday afternoon with a 4-0 walloping of Georgia Revolution in the final regular season match of the year. With some big names on the bench, a makeshift Atlanta lineup clicked immediately. Alex Nyarko Harlley led the way with two scores and showed a swagger that Atlanta has not had over the last four matches.
From the first whistle, the ‘Backs had plenty of offensive chances. Avery Shepard led to attack up front, flanked by Harlley and Santi Loaiza. The fast pace and quick passing generated by Santi in the middle was a spark plug for an offensive attack that had begun to sputter. Winger DZ Harmon drew defenders in the box when he was taken down, drawing the penalty in the 15th minute. Saturday’s captain Taka stepped up to the spot and buried the shot in the bottom right corner. Only 8 minutes later, a quick counter attack gave Atlanta another opportunity. Santi Loaiza threaded a brilliant ball between the Revolution defenders, giving Avery Shepard a one-on-one chance against the Revolution GK. Shepard netted the second goal of the day for Atlanta, celebrating with the ever-rowdy Atlanta Ultras.
In the 26th minute, another offensive chance seemed to by stymied when Alex Nyarko Harlley was cornered by multiple defenders. Harley spun to his right foot and saw an opening. He took it. “I decided to pull back [from my left foot]. When I pulled back, I got a chance to see the goalie leaving space on the right. That’s when I curved the ball in the net.” The strike gave Atlanta a 3-0 lead less than thirty minutes into the contest.
In a rather uneventful second half, Harlley struck again to finish off Georgia’s chance at a win in 2017. Harlley took a free kick on the left side of the offensive third, about 5-10 feet from the 18-yard box. Alex lifted the shot over the Revolution wall and beyond the outstretched grasp of the Revolution GK. “The goalie cheated up and left the far corner open. That’s where I wanted to go.” And that’s where he went.
On the backline, a different set of players produced a similar result: aggressive defense that slowed the Georgia Revolution. Defensive midfielder Ricardo Oliveira stepped in with his first start at right back. He showed an impressive presence in the new position, barking out orders and clearing Revs’ offensive chances.
“We don’t try to do too much with the ball,” midfielder Abraham Lansana said after the dominant victory. “We played simple and competitive football today.” After a sputtering month of matches, the home win over Georgia Revolution was exactly what this side needed heading to the postseason.
The ‘Backs will turn their focus to Asheville City SC and Tuesday’s NPSL Southeast Conference Quarterfinal. After the brace, Harlley said, “We’ve got to be prepared for Tuesday. We know they’ll bring everything, but we’ll have to be prepared”. There is no doubt the Blues will be ready after they took four of six points from Atlanta during the regular season.
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