The Atlanta Silverbacks fell to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 5-3, Friday night in an action-packed game at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Silverbacks Interim Head Coach Eric Wynalda fielded a lineup that featured several changes from last week’s squad that fell to FC Edmonton in Atlanta. Goalkeeper Daniel Illyes, defender Beto Navarro, midfielders Milton Blanco, Danny Barrera, and Paulo Mendes, and forward Pedro Mendes were all drafted into the starting lineup against the Strikers on Friday night.
The visiting lineup didn’t seem to matter much to the hosts, as the Strikers took the lead within the first five minutes. Silverbacks defender Andrew Duran lost the ball in the back, giving Strikers forward Mark Anderson an opportunity to feed forward Paulo Araujo Jr., who curled an impressive finish past a diving Daniel Illyes for a 1-0 lead.
The home team doubled their advantage in the 28th minute after Silverbacks midfielder Nico Colaluca misfired on a pass from a short corner kick. The Strikers picked off the pass in their own defensive half, and orchestrated a successful counter-attack that finished with midfielder Walter Restrepo feeding Anderson for their team’s second goal.
The Silverbacks stayed strong, though, and it only took four minutes for them to cut the hosts’ lead in half. Pedro Mendes was hauled down in the penalty area by Strikers defender Jack Stewart, who was lucky to avoid a red card. The Brazilian forward then converted the penalty kick to make it 2-1 in the 32nd minute.
The wild first half continued in the 41st minute when the Silverbacks found the back of the net to pull themselves even with the Strikers. Defender Chris Klute dribbled inside and dished a pass to forward Matt Horth, who powered a left-footed shot past Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser to tie the score at 2-2.
The momentum continued for the Silverbacks early in the second half, with Horth missing just over the bar following a counter-attack. In the 54th minute, however, it was the Strikers retaking the lead. Forward Aly Hassan snuck past Silverbacks defender Martyn Lancaster to poke a shot into the net at the near post, making the score 3-2.
Hassan struck again in the 67th minute, and going along with the theme of the night, the goal came on a Strikers counter-attack. Substitute midfielder Alfonso Motagalvan fed the tall forward, who bent the ball around Illyes to give the Strikers a two-goal lead for the second time in the game.
Just as they did in the first half, the Silverbacks fought back, pulling within a goal in the 76th minute. Horth’s low cross from the right side found Paulo Mendes, who finished calmly past Glaeser to cut the Strikers’ lead to 4-3. The goal meant that both of the Mendes brothers scored a goal in their first professional starts.
The Strikers’ one-goal lead late in the game forced the Silverbacks to push forward to find an equalizer, and it was in the midst of their offensive push that the Strikers would put the game away. A long clearance over the top of the defense found the foot of Restrepo, who made no mistake, rolling a shot past Illyes to make the score 5-3 and clinching all three points for the Strikers.
The Silverbacks and Strikers meet again next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Atlanta, kicking off the month of August, which will feature three home games at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. To purchase tickets, call 404-969-4900 or visit atlantasilverbacks.com.