For those of you keeping score, I wrote a salute to Atlanta Silverbacks FC back in March, 2018.
The club was a couple of months away from competing in the National Premier Soccer League, and I was happy the ol’ gorillas were still alive and grunting.
You know the story … the team started as the Atlanta Ruckus in 1995, morphed into the Silverbacks in 1998, and competed in the A-League, USL First Division and “new” North American Soccer league before its reserve team wound up in the NPSL and retained the identity.
But while the last time I wrote about the Silverbacks was 10 months ago, today might be the last time I write about the Silverbacks, period.
They are no more – renamed Atlanta SC because Boris Jerkunica (who owned the NASL Silverbacks) and the team are officially divorced. Jerkunica still owns the “brand” as well as Silverback Park, so he got custody of the name.
Atlanta SC will have to play somewhere else starting in May.
“After three years of running the Silverbacks as owner, general manager, and head coach, we have had some success and challenges on and off the field,” Atlanta SC owner and President Phoday Dolleh said in a statement released by the NPSL on January 4. “Both the Silverbacks Park ownership and myself have come to an agreement to move in a separate direction. The park will keep the name, giving us no choice but to rebrand. We want to continue to be a key player in the development of soccer in (the) best soccer city in the U.S.”
On the plus side, this is a club that finished 7-4-3 a year ago. In terms of coaches and prospects, it should certainly be a key player in the Southeast Conference Division of the NPSL South Region.
But there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of positive energy behind the new/old team at the moment – at least none that’s apparent to me.
Westside 109, the original supporters group for the Silverbacks, are in wait-and-see mode, which is understandable.
I get the impression they want to continue to wave the flag, so to speak, but want to see how and where they fit in.
The Atlanta Ultras, an independent supporters group, released a statement via Twitter on Tuesday announcing they won’t support Atlanta SC. The gist of the statement is that the evolution of the club “doesn’t reflect our ideas at all,” and, “… a club without any connections to the Silverbacks, besides the GM, is nothing we can and will follow as an Ultra crew.”
And what about the Silverbacks Trust?
Its goal was to raise $100,000 to contribute to the club’s operating expenses, which would lead to partial ownership.
I assume “Silverbacks” is now taboo in relation to the team, so the trust will have to change its identity if not its focus.
Look – I’m not an insider. All I know is what I’m hearing from some of the team’s supporters, who seem glad the club is no longer in the hands of Jerkunica but extremely upset at what they see as a case of identity theft.
I get it.
Even though the current iteration of New York Cosmos shares only a name with the original NASL Cosmos, that name – that identity – has kept me a fan.
They are far removed from Pele, Chinaglia and Beckenbauer in both years and star power, but to me they’re still the Cosmos and they remain my favorite American soccer team.
If they changed ownership and became the New York Whatevers, things wouldn’t be the same.
That might sound silly, but it’s the truth.
And that’s the challenge facing a hardcore group of people who love the Silverbacks.
The new team’s colors are peach and green and feature what is – to me – an uninspired logo.
And even though the players on the field this summer will look familiar, they might as well be in disguise to anyone hoping for a Silverbacks callback.
By all accounts, moving on from the old regime is the best path forward for the club.
Moving away from Silverbacks, however, is sad – especially since those with skin in the game had no choice in the matter.