That's an Atlanta geography reference, and if you aren't familiar with the city you won't get it, so if you aren't familiar with the city let me just say I don't go there often. A friend of mine once equated "Outside the Perimeter" with "Here There Be Dragons" on old maps, and that's about right.
But that's where you've gotta go if you want to see the Atlanta Silverbacks play soccer, and that's what I was doing last night. So.
There may be a bit of "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" in this. The Silverbacks have played (or, last year, not played) at a variety of levels for years, but I'd never been to a game before this year. My feelings about the Thrashers' doom have shifted from "fuck Winnipeg, fuck the NHL" to "it's all my fault because I didn't go to every game ever" (plus a healthy dose of "I hope they name the team the 'Winnipeg Whiteout'"), so there I was last night, supporting the 'backs for the second time this season.
I don't really get the U.S. league soccer structure -- I know it gets some people really exercised, but I spend enough time worrying about U.S. foreign policy, Balkan politics, and hockey that I don't really need to add another thing to the list. Basically, from what I can tell, the Silverbacks' league -- the NASL -- is a couple levels (of talent -- not necessarily organizational) below the MLS, which is in turn a whole bunch of levels below pretty much any European league.
Who cares. It's a lot of fun. A Silverbacks match (this was my second of the season) is along the lines of a county fair or a high school baseball match -- you come out, you drink beer (and eat food -- the steak tacos I had last night were the best thing I've ever had at a sporting event), you enjoy the weather (Atlanta summer nights get bearable just about the time the Silverbacks start playing), you watch some soccer.
The Silverbacks, alas, aren't doing too well. They've yet to record their first NASL win, and they've only scored goals in three of nine matches this season. In the stating the really obvious department, finishing is their problem -- they dominated possession last night, and a couple players (Lucas Paulini and ex-MLSer Raphael http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifCox) looked far more skilled than anyone on Minnesota, but they still came out on the wrong end of a 2-0 score.
But who cares? (well, the Silverbacks, presumably.) It's a nice small-town feeling in a big city -- the two Silverbacks games I've made it to were tons of fun ($2.50 beer helps -- you'd be amazed how much better Heineken tastes when it's $2.50). There are rumors that Atlanta's about to take a step up in the soccer world -- I'd support that, of course, even though putting long-term bets on Atlanta expansion teams only leads to heartbreak. For now, Atlantans, consider giving the Silverbacks a shot.