Conference leading Metros contending for U.S. Open Cup

Monday, May 21, 2001 at 1:00am

It's true that until Friday night the Nashville Metros franchise had never beaten the Atlanta Silverbacks.

And while the 2-1 home victory was a watershed win for Nashville, Atlanta knew it would have a chance to quickly avenge that defeat back on its home pitch Saturday night.

But then the Silverbacks decided to pose for pre-game pictures with the Willie B. Cup, donated in 1999 by Zoo Atlanta for the winner of the season series between the two squads.

Was it bravado, or an attempt to fire themselves up against a determined opponent? Either way, it backfired. Nashville manhandled Atlanta for a 3-1 triumph and a lead in Central Conference standings.

"They had a picture taken with the trophy before the game (Saturday), and we didn't like that very much. It ticked us off," said forward Jakob Fenger, who scored the two Metros goals Friday.

"But we had our picture taken with the trophy after the game, and that felt really good."

"We're pleased to be bringing the Willie B. Cup home, and we'll work hard to see that it stays in Nashville for a long time," coach Brett Mosen said.

Nashville had dropped a 2-1 road decision to Atlanta May 5, less than 24 hours after completing a grueling home match against the Richmond Kickers that resulted in a 3-2 loss. Mosen and his side had been chomping at the bit for a rematch under more favorable conditions, and when they got it they took full advantage to run their overall A-League mark to 4-2 with 18 points, four points better than the second-place Charleston Battery (3-2), their next opponent.

"We were on a mission," Mosen said. "We were determined to go down there and prove we were the better side, and I'm happy to say we did that.

"As I've said before, we thought our first result against them would have been different on fresh legs. We showed that Friday and then with both sides on equal footing Saturday we showed it again."

Friday's contest before 1,375 at Ezell Park was a showcase for Fenger's talents as a striker. The 30-year-old veteran from Denmark scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season to give the Metros franchise its first win in seven tries against Atlanta.

Fenger's first goal came in the 28th minute after midfielder Dominic Schell found midfielder Gabe Valencia on a dead run on the right side. Valencia played a through ball ahead to Fenger. Silverbacks goalkeeper Billy Andracki came out from goal to break up the play, but Fenger was able to reach the ball and put it past Andracki and into the net for a 1-0 Nashville advantage.

Atlanta's Ryan Walker tied the game in the 37th minute, but Fenger wasn't done for the night. In the 66th minute he took a long clearing pass from the Nashville box, and chipped the ball over Andracki for what turned out to be the winning score.

"Jakob deserves every credit. He made the opportunities for those goals himself. But that's what the players have been doing lately ﷓ they've been taking advantage of what comes their way," Mosen said.

Was Nashville's franchise futility on the minds of Fenger and his teammates as they played Friday? "Most of us are new to the team, so it wasn't really was about the franchise history. It was about Atlanta beating us a few weeks ago," the forward said. "We thought we were the better team and should have won that game.

"I've felt a lot of teams have underestimated us from the start and now we've shown we can compete and win in this league."

The two teams reassembled on a rainy night in Clarkson, Ga., at Dekalb County Memorial Stadium for Saturday's match before 1,247 spectators. Jeff Houser scored in the 32nd minute ﷓ his fifth tally of the season

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