The theme this weekend may be revenge.
The Nashville Metros hope that's only half true, however.
The Music City's A-League entry has its first regular season home game of 2001 tonight when the Richmond Kickers (1-1, 4 points) come to Ezell Park for a 7 p.m. contest. The Kickers will look to avenge a 2-1 overtime loss April 20 to a traveling Nashville squad who hopes to add a second league win to its 2-0 exhibition triumph over the Bermuda National Team at Ezell last Saturday.
It will be the Metros' (1-0, four points) turn to play the avenging role less than 24 hours later when the squad goes to Clarkson, Ga., seeking its first win in six tries against the Atlanta Silverbacks in a 6:30 p.m. match at Dekalb County Memorial Stadium.
"Nobody ever says it's going to be easy, and certainly we have some quality sides to face here and on the road in quick order," Metros Coach Brett Mosen said. "These games will be a good test of how far we've come this early in the season."
Rookie forward Brandon Wright headed in the game winning "golden goal" in overtime to give Nashville its earlier win at Richmond. Nashville's defense, which surrendered a league-record 103 goals in 2000, kept the Kickers' offense largely away from scoring opportunities during that match. Mosen has said that defenders Ben Fisher and James Wall, a 19-year-old import from English Conference League's Hereford United, were crucial to the Metro's defensive success against Richmond along with rookie defenders Nick Glaser of Hendersonville and Carl Schmitt of Memphis.
Richmond played back-to-back U.S. Open Cup qualifying matches against D-3 Pro League teams last weekend. It scored a 1-0 victory over the South Jersey Barons last Saturday before trouncing the New Jersey Stallions 3-0 the following afternoon. Those matches counted in U.S. Open Cup standings but not A-League standings.
Richmond Coach Leigh Cowlishaw's side finished second in the A-League in scoring defense last season as it gave up only 25 goals in 28 games.
Goalkeeper Mike McGinty led the league last year with 19 wins and 12 shutouts while his 0.91 goals against average was second only to the league's Goalkeeper of the Year winner Scott Vallow of the Rochester Raging Rhinos.
Saturday's contest is the A-League opener for Atlanta, winners over the Metros franchise in five previous contests. The Silverbacks have warmed up for league play by beating the D-3 League's Greenville Lions twice (2-1 on April 21 and 5-1 last Saturday) in U.S. Open Cup qualifying play for soccer's national title.
Last Saturday's victory was keyed by a three-goal showing from striker Iggy Moleka. The two wins put Atlanta atop the same qualifying group as Nashville, and mean a Silverbacks win tomorrow night would give them a virtual stranglehold for the group's top spot.
Atlanta coach John Dugan is in his first season there after two years with the now-defunct Raleigh Capital Express. He has brought in a half dozen of his former Raleigh players, including veteran midfielder Steve Armas, who spent part of the 2000 campaign with Major League Soccer's Tampa Bay Mutiny.
Dugan's defense looks strong with veterans like Jason Annichero, Sylvan Bednar, Danny Care and Edmundo Rodriguez, but the team's goalkeeping situation is less certain after using seven different players in that position last year, according to league insiders.
Tickets for tonight's home match against Richmond are $8 for adults and $5 for children and students. Fans with a Kroger Plus card can get a free youth ticket for each adult ticket purchased, according to Metros officials. Call 832-5678 or visit the team's website at http://www.nashvillemetros.com for more information.
Former Brentwood High School star Chris Morman has signed with the Metros and will be available for both of this weekend's games, Metros officials announced Thursday.
The Metros have also agreed to terms with Brian Hinkey, 23, a 5'10", 155 lb. midfielder from Akron, Ohio, who played collegiate soccer for William & Mary.
Hinkey's paperwork has not yet cleared the United Soccer League, making him ineligible for this weekend's contests.
Both Morman and Hinkey have played indoor soccer with the National Professional Soccer League. Morman played for the Harrisburg (Pa.) Heat and Hinkey was with the Cleveland Crunch.
Morman, 23, is a 6-1, 175-pound defender who was the Metros' first-round draft choice last season. He was a collegiate standout at the University of South Carolina.
The Metros also announced Thursday that they was unable to reach agreement with two former players, midfielder Danny DeVall and forward Pasi Kinturi. DeVall, a premier competitor who played two games last season for MLS Colorado Rapids, and Kinturi, the team's leading scorer from last season (9 goals, 9 assists, 27 points) who scored a goal in the Bermuda exhibition match last week, will no longer be training with the squad as they have done for the past few weeks.
"The issues with Danny and Pasi were purely financial," Coach Mosen said in a press release. "They are both quality players who we would love to have with the team. We simply do not have the money to pay them what they need. We certainly wish them the best."
Metros team officials have said their budget had to be tightened about 15 percent after Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell decided that the team would not be granted a lease on Ezell Park this season. Team management has said no lease means a prohibition on beer sales that they estimate would have given the Metros about $50,000 in additional sponsorships and roughly $10,000 in expected revenues.