The Silverbacks roster won't look particularly similar to the ones we saw in any of our three meetings with the club last season, when they open their season tonight. Gone are Joe Nasco, Milton Blanco, Danny Barrera, Pedro Mendes, Richard Menjivar, Brad Stisser, and Ruben Luna, all of whom played important roles for a club that surprised many by reaching the Soccer Bowl. They haven't opted for known commodities in replacing these seven players, instead trusting their scouts to find hidden gems from some of the less visible leagues in CONCACAF.
One of those players has a bit more name recognition that the rest, due largely to an unbelievable CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign. Deon McCaulay scored an impressive 13 goals during Belize's attempt to reach this summer's tournament, including 11 in the first group stage of qualification. That group stage total was matched by only two other players worldwide, Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie.
While that goal tally was nothing short of incredible, the competition he did most of his damage against was not. The defenses he'll face in the NASL are all significantly better than those rolled out by the likes of St. Kitts and Montserrat, and with his current club lacking any real midfield firepower, he could find himself cutting an isolated figure regularly. New York needs to make sure this happens on Sunday.
McCaulay isn't a particularly physical striker, he'll instead look to find space between the defenders while attempting to run into pockets of space. The Cosmos' back line will need to be aware of this tendency, and the midfield of Marcos Senna and Danny Szetela will need to keep an eye on Atlanta midfielders looking to use the space between themselves and the center backs, or any spaces created by fullbacks tracking McCaulay's runs. If they do so effectively, the Silverbacks should really struggle to score. If not, it could be a long day for Jimmy Maurer