((HT: atpdv/Real Salt Lake))
Pundits (whoever consider themselves as such) thought that, at least, one NASL side would knock off MLS sides in the opening
It actually, happened three times.
New York Cosmos beat NY Red Bulls 3-0. Carolina Railhawks beat Chivas USA in PK's and the Atlanta Silverbacks may have had a signature win for the franchise in their stoppage-time win over Real Salt Lake, 2-1, at Silverbacks Park (the full house pictured, right).
The reason "they"- whoever the "they" is was that the critical mass of a domestic tournament combined with the tournament in Brazil took a lot of key players out of circulation. In the RSL-Atlanta match-up, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are in Brazil and Saborio was out with injury- otherwise he would have been with the Costa Rican side that won their opening round match.
The Red Bulls were without Tim Cahill and Roy Miller for their World Cup competition. Dax McCarty was out due to knee injury, and, Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave because of turf.
The Goats were, well, the Goats... as a 9th-place team in the MLS Western Conference, only had Minda called up by Ecuador as a replacement at the last...
But, getting back to the action at the HQ home base, after a horrific gaffe by Carillo in the 10th minute that gave RSL the 1-0 lead the Silverbacks pressed for the remainder of the clock and got the duke.
Here's the highlights
OSG Sports caught up with Poku afterwards about what is, probably, "that" win for the franchise in the soccer-scape:
"The coaches and players were ready," he admitted post-match. "It's the first time I played against a professional team. And since we're a new team together with new coaches, we're starting to figure it out. I think we're getting there."
And in stoppage time, Poku was getting some encouragement to go ahead and shoot to keep the match from going to the same fate the last time the two played where RSL took the match in extra time to advance in the Cup.
"I had the ball and the guys were saying, "Poku, just take it!' So, I gotta take it, right? There was what...??? One minute left...??? So I took the shot..."
And with a shrug of his shoulders, Poku described how games can change on a drop. The Silverbacks looked like a team that knew they could work the far channels with Rudolph and Burgos- working crosses into the box for guys like Chavez to elevate and cause problems for RSL keeper Joe Attinella.
Silverbacks Technical Director Eric Wynalda, who is a joy to watch and cover if only for educational purposes for starters, sees the win as one of those victories that you can grow from:
"I think it's one of those seminal moments, yeah," he said. "The season, at times, has been painful for us this year. But when you excel, it can breathe life into a franchise.
"It's what this tourney is all about. You talk about how this is a game for us and a time to shine. We've embraced it. We've showcased it. And it's why I love this competition. It's been a hard go, and there are times where we've let ourselves down. But to the other part... we believe we can win games like this. We've got another game, now, in ten days and we'll put a lot into that. It gives us another quality opponent and it couldn't come at a better time."
The Silverbacks get either a trip to Orlando to play Orlando City SC or to Colorado to play the MLS Rapids on June 24.
And as for Willie B FC...???
Growth comes in stages... it's why it's called exactly that- sometimes it's in spurts. Sometimes it's in fits and starts and as long as the new faces in new places can figure it out, the curve under Wynalda looks like the stair-steps the franchise is looking for after last year's Soccer Bowl appearance.
It's about building an attitude with the players who buy in and bringing the right players to fit the philosophy that will court success. The thought process Wynalda is looking for with guys who wear the red and black kits over time will fill in just fine...