ATLANTA -- The coach sees it; the players feel it; the results already show it.
Interim head coach Eric Wynalda has rejuvenated the Atlanta Silverbacks. And on Saturday the team wants their home fans to share in that revitalization.
"We feel a good vibe right now, and we're going to go after it," Wynalda said of Saturday's upcoming bout with the Puerto Rico Islanders -- the Silverbacks first home game since his hiring two weeks ago. "We're going to let our guys loose. There will be a lot of emotion there, but it will be controlled aggression."
Wynalda's presence has helped shape that aggression -- replacing what was recently an overriding sense of frustration from an Atlanta team that had just one win through the first half of the season.
"There has been a tremendous change of character with the guys on the team already," Silverbacks midfielder Ciaran O'Brien said. "Losing drains you. But the guys on the team are excited to play again."
Among those eager to show their abilities is midfielder Borfor Carr, who recorded an assist in Wynalda's first game -- a 2-1 loss to Carolina -- and a goal in last Saturday's 2-0 win over Minnesota.
"Ever since Eric's been here all the tension has been down; the boys are uplifted and they want to work again," Carr said. "Before there was a lot of anger and frustration -- even in training. It was a drag. Now I get up and want to come to training every day."
Last Saturday's victory doubled the Silverbacks win total for the season, doing plenty to raise spirits. Yet Atlanta -- and Wynalda -- are nowhere near the level to which they aspire.
"My halftime speech in Minnesota (where the Silverbacks led 1-0) was that if you think that was good, that's why you're in last place," Wynalda said.
To that end, Wynalda is continuing to press his players, demanding their best effort in both game and practice situations.
"I want a fire under their (behinds) every day," Wynalda said. "I introduced two reserves to first team practice (Thursday), and I told the guys to accept them but that they want your job. The competitive nature here is intense."
According to players, that's not the only change.
"We're a lot more organized now as a team," O'Brien said. "Guys know their spots and what they're supposed to be doing. There's no surprises like there were before. It makes things so much easier when you know where everybody is supposed to be. Simple is better. This isn't rocket science."
The Silverbacks are currently employing a 4-4-2 formation, with Wynalda encouraging his more attack-minded players to concentrate on pressing forward.
"I have a lot more energy on the ball now; I'm not having to worry about getting back and defending all the time," said Carr. "I feel like I'm more dangerous now."
Wynalda hopes to see plenty of that from his entire team on Saturday against Puerto Rico (kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Silverbacks Park).
"When you're playing at home it's kind of like what my dad told me about what happens if you get in a fist-fight," Wynalda said. "You want to hit first, hit hard and don't let the other guy get up."
Judging from the energy surrounding the team, that shouldn't be a problem on the field. And the Silverbacks hope their fans will return that energy in the stands as they catch their first glimpse of the new-look team.
"We certainly expect there to be a buzz and a high level of excitement amongst those in the Atlanta soccer community," Silverbacks public relations manager Neal Malone said. "I think a lot of people want to see how Wynalda has changed this team and what he is like as a coach. Others may just want to come and try to meet him, get an autograph, or take some photos. We have sold out four of our first seven games this season, so we don't expect anything different this weekend against Puerto Rico. "
Certainly Silverbacks players want some different results at home -- where they are yet to win this season.
"We want to get a win for fans; they've really stuck with us and been there for us, and they deserve it," O'Brien said.