This past Saturday marked the 2012 season opener for the North American Soccer League. The NASL is a professional men’s soccer league in the US (including Puerto Rico) and Canada one tier below Major League Soccer in terms of professional leagues in North America. This is the NASL’s 2nd act if you will … many might remember the original NASL which lasted from the late 60’s to the mid 80’s and boasted world-class superstar players including Pele, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, George Best,Giorgio Chinaglia and Bobby Moore. The New York Cosmos where the most popular NASL at the time.
Fast forward 28 years and the new NASL is a young league with loads of potential. League play debuted on Arpil 9, 2011 (happy anniversary!) and features 8 teams spanning the US (6), Canada (1 with Ottawa starting play in 2013) and Puerto Rico. The regular season includes 28 games with teams playing each other four times — the play-offs consist of the top 6 teams. Last year, the Minnesota Stars who finished 6th during the regular season, claimed the inaugural NASL Championship.
Back to the 2012 opener … as a resident of Atlanta and long time fan of many variation of ‘the beautiful game’, it was only natural that I check out the local NASL team, the Atlanta Silverbacks, a 2nd year team with lots to prove after a dismal 2011 season including a whopping four wins.
Before the game, much buzz surrounded the San Antonio Scorpions, their expansion team opponent, and how a victory versus the newcomers should be in the cards. Honestly, after looking at the roster compared to 2011, the new-look Silverbacks with 9 new players including six starters had much to prove as well. In looking at the media notes pre-game, the 2012 Silverbacks have strengthened each position, with the biggest improvement on the defensive end of things. New captain and 13 year English veteran Martyn Lancaster and Hungarian goalie Daniel Illyes look to lead the defensive charge.
Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 5,000 fans at the soccer-specific Silverbacks Park, the home team fought their way to a 0:0 draw versus the weaker San Antonio side. Honduran midfielder and world cup veteran Danilo Turcios lead the offensive charge with a few quality scoring chances including a 17th minute side ‘netter’. In addition to Turcios, Chilean forward Reynaldo Navia, who had just arrived in town earlier in the week, provided some ‘oohs and aahs’ despite only playing the last 18 minutes. Overall, Atlanta managed 11 shots on goal versus San Antiono’s 5 and earned 10 corners compared to Scorpions’ four.
At the end of the night, I can only assume that the sellout crowd went home happy knowing they saw an encouraging 2012 debut by the home side on a perfect soccer weather evening. I for one look forward to tracking the Silverbacks’ progress throughout the 2012 season. TRF