CONYERS -- The Georgia Revolution played a fierce brand of soccer for 90 minutes Tuesday night with hopes of advancing in the U.S. Open Cup tournament, but the more experienced Atlanta Silverbacks came out on top 3-2 at the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association complex.
Midfielder Pablo Cruz scored in the 57th minute for the game-winner as the Silverbacks advanced to the third round and a date next Tuesday with Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer in Sandy, Utah.
Atlanta dominated in every area of the match, including 19 shots on goal to the Revolution's 9 shots. However, the Revolution of the amateur National Premier Soccer League kept the match close to the end.
The Silverbacks took the lead early with an unassisted goal from forward Ruben Luna at the 4-minute mark. Revolution midfielder Iain Smith took a center pass from teammate Kwadwo Poku and scored from the right of the Silverbacks goal to tie the game at the 16th minute.
Luna struck again with a penalty kick at the 31st minute for the Silverbacks to take a 2-1 lead at the half.
As thunder sounded and lightning flashed in the evening sky, both teams hammered each other with quick goals. The Silverbacks moved to a 3-1 lead on Cruz's goal. Seconds later, the Revolution returned the favor with a goal by midfielder Rene Enang that ended up being the final score.
Revolution Head Coach John Sprague started the game with four defenders as a strategy for the defense to wear down the Silverbacks attack. The strategy almost worked as the Revolution adjusted for offense later in the match that opened up scoring opportunities in the second half, Sprague said.
"As the game progressed, we started pressing higher and higher and found more success," he said. "The game's speed dictated how our guys played. They did a good job of evolving from a low pressure to a high pressure game, and we had some chances to tie it up and that's what we cared about. They made it interesting."
The teams played physically tough soccer throughout the match with 11 fouls called against the Silverbacks and 10 against the Revolution. Yellow cards were given to Silverbacks Danny Berrera for delay of game and Richie Menjivar for rough play of grabbing a Revolution player's shorts. The Revolution had one yellow card to Dennis Kramer for rough play.
The intensity from both sides also showed when Silverbacks assistant coach Franklin McIntosh was ejected from the game for questioning referee Patrick Baker on what he thought were non-calls on fouls. The officiating crew twice stopped play briefly to talk to Silverback head coach Brian Haynes and Sprague on excessive criticism from the sidelines.
The Silverbacks also held the advantage in every offensive category, but Haynes said the rough play made it close. He said what the Revolution gave them Tuesday will be needed next week against Real Salt Lake.
"Look, look at them. They're a PDL (player development league) team that's supposedly not professional players and gave us that kind of effort -- not give up, never say die attitude," he said. "It's the same thing for us. We're going up against the 'top league' in America, and we have to go there and give that same kind effort like they did here tonight."