The Carolina Railhawks are squaring off against the NASL Champions, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, in the opening match to the 2013 NASL season on April 6th. Last season, the Rowdies failed to beat the Railhawks during the 2012 regular season, and squeaked a win by the Railhawks in the semifinals, winning 5-4 on aggregate. The Rowdies ultimately went on to win the NASL, defeating the Minnesota Stars in the final.
In the 2012 season, the Railhawks scored 42 total goals, putting them second behind the San Antonio Scorpions for the most goals scored. 15 of the goals scored by Carolina in the 2012 season were scored by Nick Zimmerman, putting him as the second highest scorer of the NASL season. Zimmerman returns again for his third season with the Railhawks, as do other Railhawk leading scorers Brian Shriver, Ty Shipalane, and Zack Schilawski. The Railhawks also added more firepower to their lineup with the addition of Nicholas Addlery, the top scorer in 2012 for the Puerto Rico Islander, who scored 9 goals.
Unfortunately for the Railhawks, their strong offense was not matched by their defense. The Railhawks conceded the most goals out of all the NASL teams, letting 46 into the net. The high number of goals conceded led to a lackluster 10-8-10 record, only good enough for 4th place in the regular season. Defense is certainly key this year for the Railhawks to improve their record and reduce the number of goals conceded.
To that end, the Railhawks announced today, 4/5/13, that they had signed Paul Hamilton from FC Edmunton. Paul (pictured below) was voted to the 2012 NASL Best XI and is one of the best defenders in the league. Hopefully, adding a strong centerback will help answer the Railhawks defensive problems.
Going into the season opener, the Railhawks have had a strong preseason beating Duke, Wake Forest, and the Richmond Kickers. The club drew both the Vancouver Whitecaps and UNC Wilmington. In an exciting match against Pumas UNAM, the Railhawks were barely defeated 2-1 after a fluke first goal deflection and a bad back pass. The Railhawks also lost to the Charleston Battery and the second game they played against Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Rowdies finished the regular 2012 season in second with a record 12-7-9. During this time they gave up 30 goals and scored 37. Rowdies’ success continued into the playoffs and they ultimately won the NASL championship. Returning this year is the core championship team with 9 championship final players returning. In addition to these core players, the Rowdies have signed a number of players, including goalkeeper Diego Restrepo and defender Jay Needham to help bolster their defense.
With the top finish in the NASL, the Rowdies were invited to the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic where they competed against top teams from across the nation including many MLS teams. Ultimately, the Rowdies had a disappointing preseason, finishing 4-6. The Rowdies only won against 4 college teams, while falling to DC United, Montreal Impact, Sporting Kansas City, and one of their main rivals, Orlando City, from the American third division.
Playing against so many tough opponents in a long preseason, the Rowdies are well prepared to defend last years title and are certainly the favorites against Railhawks. In the Railhawks favor is Tampa Bay’s inability to win against the Railhawks last year, which will certainly give them confidence, but it’ll certainly be a tough game. To avoid starting the season off on the wrong foot, the Railhawks must look to keep their defensive shape and not concede the plethora of goals they gave up last season. Hopefully new signing Paul Hamilton is up to the task.
The match is scheduled to take place April 6th @ 7:30 in Tampa Bay at Al Lang Stadium.