The Atlanta Silverbacks saw their slim playoff chances all but vanish on Wednesday as they lost to the New York Cosmos 3-0 at home. Despite changes to their formation and an all out effort to score goals, the Silverbacks were shutout for the first time in five games. Likewise, the Cosmos won for the first time in five games and look to back in form as they head into the playoffs. With three matches remaining, the Silverbacks stay in 7th place in the combined table with 31 points, three points behind fourth place and the final playoff spot.
With only four days rest from their last contest, both teams ran out very different lineups on Wednesday. Atlanta switched back to the 3-5-2 they had been using for a majority of the fall season and replaced Sunday's goalscorer Michal Mravec with Paulo Mendes. The more offensively minded formation was a clear indication of the Silverbacks' urgency to get all three points and remain in the playoff hunt.
The Cosmos, with their playoff berth in hand and looking to end a winless streak, shook things up as well. Notable stars Raul and Marcos Senna were absent from the starting XI. New York also changed into a 4-5-1, conscience of Atlanta's need to score goals.
The changes in lineup and location were noticeable from the whistle. Atlanta saw much more of the ball and were more threatening with it in the games opening minutes. Junior Burgos looked to recreate his assist from the weekend when the Silverbacks were awarded a free kick at nearly the same spot on the pitch in the 6th minute. True to form, Burgos made a textbook delivery that was cleared by the New York defense. The following corner was just as promising but ultimately ended in the same fate.
What the Cosmos lacked in pure desperation, they made up for in well organized play. They linked passes together well and attacked as a team. Their thoughtful movement paid off on Sebastian Guenzatti's goal in the 29th minute. Guenzatti slipped in behind Gaston Cellerino as headed on a ball from keeper Jimmy Maurer. As Rauwshan McKenzie was challenging the header, Guenzatti was wide open to collect the ball and slot it home between Steward Ceus and the near post.
The nervy minutes continued for the Silverbacks as McKenzie brought down Leonardo Fernandes just outside the left side of the penalty area. Hunter Freeman shot in the wall of the free kick and the Cosmos were awarded a corner, from which Freeman nearly scored as his ball curled onto the near post. The hosts were fortunate to remain only a goal down at the half.
The Silverbacks were without many answers in the second half as the Cosmos played compacted, central defense, forcing Atlanta to stay wide or kick the ball deep. A mental mistake from Paulo and Paul Black saw Cellerino collect an errant back pass and break alone on goal. Ceus was immense in making the initial save but had no answer for Cellerino's follow up effort and the visitors doubled their lead with little less than 40 minutes to play.
The game did open up a bit as the New York may have tired a bit and Atlanta established more cohesive ball movement. The Silverbacks' best chance came from a corner in the 68th minute when Pedro Mendes struck a volley that forced Maurer into a beautiful diving save. The keeper appeared to be beaten on the rebound but also able to turn away McKenzie's shot.
The death knell came in the 88th minute as Fernandes converted a cross from Hagop Chirishian with a strong strike from the top of the area. Chirishian did very well to break down the right flank and beat his defender when cutting inside, leaving Fernandes to make the clinical finish.
The Atlanta Silverbacks will play their penultimate home game of the 2015 season on October 17th when they take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies.