On Saturday, Atlanta will be the locale for the NASL Soccer Bowl, the title game of North America’s second division. The Atlanta Silverbacks will play host to the New York Cosmos at Atlanta Silverbacks Park. The Silverbacks have developed a strong side thanks largely to US Soccer legend Eric Wynalda, the club’s technical director. And attendance has been impressive.
But what I am hearing from multiple sources is that Major League Soccer is getting closer and closer to naming an Atlanta team, and all indications are it will not be the Silverbacks. Despite the success the club has achieved, they are likely to be pushed into the dustbin of history. This is a direct contradiction of recent MLS decisions to elevate successful lower division clubs and brands to the top flight. Perhaps the Silverbacks don’t quite have the cache of the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and Orlando City (Lions) but it would be unfortunate if the brand died.
The much-hyped Seattle-Portland MLS playoff match was a disappointment. Football lines and somewhat subdued supporters ruined the atmosphere as did an uneven match. I have been told that in some quarters Sounders supporters feel superior to Portland supporters and don’t view the derby with the same enthusiasm the Timbers fans do. However despite this, I have no hesitation to say Portland will put on a great show in the return leg, with the supporters being in full voice and at a soccer-specific venue.
If you read the Mexican press as I sometimes do, you’ll find a lot of blame for the woes of El Tri, the Mexico national team being aimed at European based players. Not long ago Mexico had a league that paid so well that it was less lucrative to go to Europe unless you were an absolute standout player like Hugo Sanchez or Rafa Marquez. But by the mid 2000s, this was changing with Mexican players not only going to Spain, but to France, Holland and Germany as well. By the early 2010’s players were popping up in England, Portugal, Scotland and Italy also. This has created a cultural divide on the national team and the solution seems to be to name a squad made up almost entirely of domestic based players. Mexico hopes that what they give up in quality they gain in squad cohesion for the do-or-die playoff with New Zealand. We will have much more on this story next week during the international break.