After losing the NASL’s Soccer Bowl 1-0 to New York on Saturday, the Silverbacks now begin the process of trying to make it back to next year’s game.
The team has options on contracts for most of the 32 players on the roster, but coach Brian Haynes and technical director Eric Wynalda said they won’t likely stand pat.
Wynalda said he expects some players will leave after receiving offers from other clubs and others may be moved out for lack of production. In particular, Wynalda said the team’s forwards will be scrutinized.
“We need to score more goals,” said Wynalda, a former forward for the U.S. national team. “We need more speed up top.”
Atlanta won the Spring season, which guaranteed a spot in the Soccer Bowl, with a 6-3-3 record and goal differential of plus-5. The team scored 20 goals in 12 games.
But the Silverbacks struggled in the Fall season with a 4-4-6 record and goal differential of minus-8. They scored 14 goals in 14 games. On Saturday, the Silverbacks had three shots on goal to New York’s four, including the the match-winner by Marcos Senna in the 50th minute.
“Our job is to make this team better,” Wynalda said. “Sometimes that means there are some hard decisions to make.”
Wynalda and Haynes have proven that they have a plan.
Wynalda took over as the club’s part-time coach last July. The Silverbacks were 1-8-5, winless at home and had a minus-16 goal differential. Wynalda soon hired Haynes to take over coaching, while he moved to technical director.
Wynalda and Haynes brought in several new players and the Silverbacks responded, going 6-1-7 in the last 14 games.
Haynes said part of the challenge is finding and signing players similar in talent and temperament to those previously signed.
“We had to make sure that we didn’t bring just players, we had to bring in good people,” Haynes said. “We have good people who love each other and want to work and play together. It was easy to coach the guys because they have good character.”
Wynalda said the team will have a better idea of what the roster may look like and what holes need to be filled in a month.
But they are confident that the Silverbacks aren’t going to revert to the team that struggled in its first 1 1/2 years in the NASL. And they are looking forward to their next game against New York.
“We will enjoy the next time we play them because we will beat them,” Wynalda said.