Despite dominating nearly all of their opponents in 2006, the Augusta FireBall have been staring up at the Carolina Dynamo in the standings nearly the entire season.
Sunday night's victory over the Atlanta Silverbacks might have nearly sewn up the Southern Conference's lone wild card playoff spot - but don't tell that to FireBall coach Alec Papadakis.
"With the wild card the way it is, we've got to get as many points as possible right now," Papadakis said. "Right now we're ahead ... But we've got to keep winning."
The FireBall put on a show for the Augusta faithful Sunday at Patriots Park in getting the much-needed victory. Blending excellent ball skills with a great team balance on offense and defense, Augusta dominated the Atlanta Silverbacks, 3-0, in nearly the same fashion as they had in their first meeting this year.
Ryan Roushandel scored for the first time in five games and Freddie Moojen, the USL Premier Development League scoring leader from a year ago, found the net twice, proving that lighting does strike twice in the same situation - the same combination of goals between the two players decided another 3-0 victory over Atlanta on June 15.
Roushandel chalked up his second half goal and the team's victory to playing in front of the Augusta fans.
"How can you not get up for an atmosphere like this?" Roushandel said. "It's coming down to the end of the season, and we're just playing for each other and for this crowd."
Moojen started off the scoring with what he admitted was one of the easiest of his league-leading 16 goals on the season. But his second - a left-footed strike past the Atlanta keeper into the right side netting - illustrated the native Brazilian's lethal touch around the net.
"We came here really needing this win," said Moojen, one of five Clemson players on the Augusta roster. "They have a great team, but we really stepped up."
Defensively, the entire FireBall back line shined, dissipating the long-ball offense of the Silverbacks.
Augusta goalkeeper Justin Papadakis was rarely challenged in the first half, as Atlanta could manage only a header that went just wide. But the Duke standout held his end of the bargain in half No. 2, as the Silverbacks picked up the pace and the scoring chances.
Another header just wide and several close calls later, the defense held onto its third-consecutive shutout in matching the offense's impressive night of work.
"We really played well as a team," Roushandel said. "Most of all, we're just able to motivate each other. We just keep each other moving, and that's what's most important."
For now, the FireBall are focused on tonight's home match-up with the Nashville Metros, a team they have defeated all three times they've played this season. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Patriots Park.
A win would nearly guarantee the conference's wild card spot, which goes to the team with the highest point total among the second-place teams in the three divisions.
And if it should come, that victory would allow Augusta to get set for some year-end fireworks - a home-and-away series against the Carolina Dynamo, and a chance to take over the division's top spot.
Wednesday: 7 p.m., at home vs. the Nashville Metros
Sunday: 3 p.m., at home vs. the Carolina Dynamo
Saturday, July 22: 7:30 p.m., on the road vs. the Carolina Dynamo
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