November 11, 2010

Shock! The Monkey!

This morning, at about 11:15 a.m. EST I was sitting in my office preparing for lunch when a DM came across my Twitter from @islanderslegion:

"Just read the NASL press release, any news out of ATL about the Silverbacks coming back"

I was shocked, to say the least. I had spent October 30th up in Raleigh for the USSF D-2 Final telling everyone (most notably @PasionNaranja and @danielstroud) that in no way would the Atlanta Silverbacks be coming back for the 2011 season. They cited this press release and the fact that a "Atlanta 2011" image was displayed on the NASL website for some time.

The original plan for Silverbacks Park. This was considered to be Phase IV, where upon completion the stadium would hold close to 15,000 fans. Unfortunately Silverbacks Park remains somewhere close to Phase II.

When the Silverbacks decided to sit out the 2009 season I thought it was a good move. A 9th-place finish in the 2008 USL First Division and a general indifference turned off a lot of supporters, including yours truly. ReMax Greater Atlanta Stadium had seen very little progress towards being completed and rising costs for fans to attend games during the last two seasons of USL play made it difficult for me and many others to want to stay home. (I know, they made the final in 2007. I attribute that to luck more than anything. That team was painful to watch in person.)

Although the Silverbacks didn't field a team in 2009 or 2010, the park was still being used for amateur leagues almost every day of the week. I played in a Co-ed league from 2006 until earlier this year, so I got to see the lack of progress and the lack of upkeep of not only the surrounding fields but the stadium as well. It seemed as if the Silverbacks ownership had given up on trying to finish the stadium project and said we're going with what we've got.
Add into that the disastrous flooding in September of 2009 which completely engulfed the park, seeing as it sits in a low-lying area.

This picture was taken from the "parking lot", the rock hill which looks over the whole park. The huge mass of water on the right is completely covering the other two fields. I estimate the height of the water at 7-8 feet.

With an ownership group not interested in fielding a professional team, there hasn't been a pressing reason to finish construction, upgrade the facilities or even complete the adequate cleanup after the flood.

Until today.

I must say that until today we saw it as a virtual impossibility that the Silverbacks would return in any form or fashion in 2011. In the last press release on the Silverbacks' website, released November 10, 2009, the final sentence states:

"The Atlanta Silverbacks will not be playing in the 2011 season and there will be no tryouts until further notice."

Yet there it was today, clear as day on the NASL website.

"The meeting was highlighted by the approval of two additional teams for the 2011 season - the NSC Minnesota Stars and the Atlanta Silverbacks - and their inclusion in the application to the United States Soccer Federation for sanctioning as a Division II league."

I still can't believe what I'm reading and it will probably take a night of sleep for it to sink in. The Atlanta Silverbacks are coming back, like it or not. And how do I know they're coming back? After a couple long conversations with @Longshoe today, here's what we deduced:

NASL had to have 8 teams. We rationed that NASL went to USSF with 6 teams and they said it wasn't enough. Montreal, Puerto Rico, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Miami were the holdovers with the strongest ownership groups. Edmonton FC has been steadfast in moving forward to joining as an expansion team in 2011.

That left two more teams to sign up. The financial problems of the NSC Minnesota Stars are well known and Boris Jerkunica, owner of the Silverbacks, had made it clear he was not willing to continue losing money by fielding a professional team, his main reason for not fielding a team the last two years. From this we can only conclude that one or more outside partners have stepped in and committed to helping both Minnesota and Atlanta financially in order the the NASL to be certified for play in 2011 by the USSF.

We were as blindsided as everyone else. We have heard nary a peep from anyone in the Silverbacks community recently, which was the main reason behind my declarations in Raleigh that the Silverbacks would not be returning any time soon. The economy has not improved dramatically, construction on the park has been stalled for years and now the Silverbacks have almost completely lost any footprint they had on the Atlanta soccer scene.

If NASL is to proceed as a eight-team league, the Atlanta Silverbacks will almost certainly be one of those teams. However, the daunting task of fixing the park, finding sponsors, hiring a front-office staff, hiring a coaching staff, promoting the team, and most importantly, complete a roster seems almost too much to complete in a such a short time span.

In the days and weeks to come there will certainly be more information forthcoming, at which time we will definitely share with you.

Atlanta included in NASL 2011 bid to USSF

With the potential return of the Silverbacks, we'll clear the mothballs off the Cupcakes and try to figure out what is going on...

All the word on the street was that IF Atlanta returned to pro soccer, it would not be via the Silverbacks. The last few years of the pro team were not successful financially and things didn't look viable in the future. Rumors were that other investors would be necessary to make it happen.

Two years have passed since the Silverbacks took the field. USL-D1 has imploded and now we have the NASL. Same idea of a national 2nd division with the same type of costs...

Rumors in Minnesota have Traffic (owners of Miami FC and doing big business in Central & South America) providing funding for that club to return. Pure speculation here, but could Traffic be funding Atlanta as well in order to provide a league for its many players to gain experience in? From a player development and sales standpoint, it could make sense for Traffic to essentially control the market.

I'm sure this will be updated as events unfold. Be on the lookout for more about the return of pro soccer to Atlanta.

UPDATE: For what it's worth, the official site hasn't been updated yet beyond the NASL announcement at the beginning of 2010.

August 29, 2010

Test Run for Bring Back the Stripes LIVE

Let's see how this works...

April 6, 2010

MLS Week 2: The Round Up

  • Chivas USA has no offense, will they score a goal before May? I like Osael Romero, good quality there. How does Maicon Santos miss that shot in the 6-yard box?
  • Los Angeles is solid, if not all that spectacular right now. They'll be around at the end of the year.
  • Real Salt Lake will also be around to defend their championship. Javier Morales is continuing his early season hot streak. What in the world was Fabien Espindola thinking? Not a bad takedown on Boswell, but he wasn't able to go for the ground and pound due to excellent scrambling by Bobby. Jamison Olave's defensive breakdown was uh, interesting...
  • The Dynamo are not the same team they've been in recent years. Luckily, they have the best coach in the league with Dominic Kinnear. He has some time to get them together, but I'm still skeptical that they have the talent to be in the mix late in the playoffs.
  • By adding Claudio Lopez, Colorado could be quite interesting. Lopez playing behind Casey and Cummings is a pretty solid attack. With Mastroeni holding down the fort in the center of the park, and Colin Clark running wild on the left wing, the Rapids could be dangerous. They shouldn't be boring at least.
  • Chicago hasn't put it all together yet. We'll see how quick Carlos de los Cobos can adjust to the league.
  • New England is still the same old Revolution, even without all the key players from the last few years. Nicol did an excellent job in DC on Saturday night.
  • That said, Onalfo was out coached again. He got the starting lineup right this time and the team came out firing on all cylinders. However, they couldn't get a goal to show for it, and then seemed to run out of steam in the second half. The subs were puzzling, everything was just a straight swap and did nothing to change the game. James in for Talley at that point in the game was disappointing, I would've liked to see one of the forwards come and United really go for the win. All the possession in the world does nothing for you if can't score, except make losses like this one even more frustrating.
  • New York is for real, winning in Seattle shows that. If Macoumba can keep putting everything together, the Red Bulls will have the best attack in the league.
  • Surprising loss by Seattle, I'll be curious to see how they bounce back from it.

March 29, 2010

Are you kidding me?

A 4-0 loss on Opening Day does not typically signify a good season coming up. DC United did not look ready for its game on Saturday night, which is even more frustrating after the fairly successful run in Charleston at their preseason tournament. After a day to try to calm down, here's my thoughts:
  • The defense struggled, but that was to be expected a bit. No Namoff & Burch through the preseason meant Pena & McTavish were getting most of the time with Jakovic & Wallace. However, Pena was not available due to visa issues & McTavish was injured on Saturday night. I think bringing in Carey Talley was a good move in light of the defensive injuries. My issue is with Simms at right back. I don't know how much experience he has there. Last season, when he played in the back due to injuries, it was in the middle. I would've much rather seen Talley on the right & Simms in the middle. Moving from a central position to an outside position isn't always an easy transition.
  • The injury to Simms made things even more tricky, but these things happen when he's coming right back off an injury. Starting Julius James was probably the safer play from the beginning. Again, I would've rather seen James in the middle & Talley on the outside. James' limited amount of play at right back last season showed that he's not suited for the position. The second goal was due to the right back being out of position.
  • Morsink, who I think fits DCU's style very well, did not play well. He consistently turned the ball over in dangerous positions. It really looked like he was trying to do too much. When the defense did perform well, Morsink turned it over at the top of the box.
  • Up until the second goal, DCU dominated possession and looked like the better team. The first goal was against the run of play. I thought the offside call pulling a goal back was a bad one, and Quaranta could have earned a penalty in the first half. These incidents would have changed things greatly.
  • That said, coming out and playing even worse in the second half is unforgivable. The team looked like they did not want to be there.
  • I hope pulling Najar at halftime doesn't affect his confidence. He's going to be a project and needs to be built up. I hope pulling him at that point doesn't become a setback for him.
  • Besides, after having to use a sub on Simms in the first half, I think pulling Najar wasn't necessary at that point. Leaving one sub for the last 45 minutes on Opening Day wasn't a good idea.
  • I don't like the Allsopp/Moreno combination at all. Allsopp/Pontius would probably work better, but I don't think they used that once during the preseason matches. They rarely used Allsopp/Moreno. Most often in the last four preseason games, the forward combinations were Moreno/Pontius and Allsopp/Cristman. Not sure why pulling Najar, moving Pontius to right mid after saying throughout the preseason that you wanted to keep him up top this season, and pairing Moreno with Allsopp was the decision. It definitely didn't improve anything.
So which was it, the preseason was meaningless or the KC game was just a bad result? I'll abstain from the vote until after Saturday's home game with the Revs.

Other notes from around the league:
  • Chivas USA needs some work, they did not look good at home against the vanilla Rapids.
  • Columbus showed that they're the best in the East right now with a solid win.
  • Nice goal by Lindpere to give New York the win. Where was everybody in the crowd though?
  • LA looked alright, but New England was pretty much a non-factor.
  • Didn't get to see it live, but Javier Morales is the truth. Two amazing goals Saturday night, is this the year he puts everything together and becomes an elite level player?