Wednesday night's 1-1 draw with the Nashville Metros was a bittersweet result for the Augusta FireBall.
The tie might have put a South Atlantic Division crown just out of reach, but it also provided a much-needed point in the standings, bringing Augusta closer to the Southern Conference's wild card and the franchise's first playoff berth.
"This is our first year that we're eligible for the playoffs," Augusta native Havird Usry said.
"It's pretty awesome that we're going to do it our first year. We're going to get a result and get there."
That result must come against the unbeaten Carolina Dynamo (12-0-1) in what is likely the most anticipated two-game series in the two-year history of the Augusta franchise in USL Premier Development League play.
And although Augusta could sneak into postseason play without winning one of the final two contests, FireBall coach Alec Papadakis has his team ready to steal the momentum from the Dynamo with one victory - if not two - during the final stretch.
"These kids are looking forward to it and it should be a good match," Papadakis said.
"They've got a good streak going, but hopefully it will be broken on Sunday."
Augusta entered Wednesday night's contest with Nashville having not lost a home game all year. That streak was challenged, however, when the Metros tallied the game's first goal in the 55th minute.
From an Andrew Ducker feed, Mark Photivihok took the ball down with his chest, and proceeded to knock a quick strike past Augusta keeper Justin Papadakis.
With a flair for timing, PDL scoring leader Freddie Moojen caught a break after being double- and sometimes triple-teamed all night. On a bounding ball inside th
box, Moojen found possession just long enough to knock in the game-tying goal from a tricky left-hand angle, his 17th score of the season.
The Augusta forward looks to add that same scoring touch in Sunday's contest.
"It'll be our first time playing (Carolina) this year, so I don't expect them to mark me as much," said Moojen, who also led the PDL in scoring in 2005.
Augusta owns a 5-0-2 record at Patriots Park this season.
That home-field advantage developed last season, when the FireBall began to gather community support behind a nearly unblemished 2005 campaign.
That showed in attendance numbers, as Augusta ranked No. 3 in the 59-team framework of the PDL last season.
The Augusta faithful have turned out in large numbers this year, and lately, bits of conversation here and there in the stands have focused on Sunday's matchup.
"I heard they're pretty good," one young fan said of the Dynamo. "But they haven't come to Augusta and played us yet."
Note: The Southern Conference's wild card spot goes to the best second-place team among the three divisions. With 31 points in 14 games, Augusta (which plays in the South Atlantic Division) is ahead of Dallas-Fort Worth (22 points in 12 games) in the Mid South Division and the Central Florida Kraze (20 points in 12 games) in the Southeast Division.
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