The Carolina Railhawks defeated FC Edmonton 2-1 at home with goals coming from da Luz (Railhawks – 51st minute), Shriver (Railhawks – 71st minute), and Mirabelli (92nd minute – Edmonton). First half was a slight advantage to the Railhawks, who came out fairly strong and had a shot on goal and a corner in the first minute. Great improvement from last week, where the first shot on goal was in the 20th minute. Edmonton also had their fair share of chances too (including hitting the post), but everything remained level at half. Things heated up in the second half, where Ty Shipalane took the ball down the right side past several defenders and then found Austin da Luz at the far post who headed it past a defender to make it 1-0. Later in the 71st minute da Luz was fouled roughly 19 yards from goal to set up a free kick. Brian Shriver made an incredible free kick, avoiding the wall and nestling the ball in the left corner making it 2-0 Railhawks. Definitely NASL play of the week. FC Edmonton amped up the pressure after the second goal and managed to get one back late in stoppage with Sadi Jalali assisting Massimo Mirabelli. The win puts the Railhawks in 2nd place behind the Rowdies (both tied on 4 points, with Rowdies winning on goal differential). The Railhawks next game is at home on April 20th against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
The 5,033 fans that came to watch the Carolina Railhawks play FC Edmonton had the perfect weather to watch soccer. Many of them also had free tshirts. The town of Cary and Wake Med Hospitals donated “Railhawk 12th Man” tshirts to the first 2,000 fans to enter the stadium. It was a nice gesture for opening night, everybody loves free stuff. My only complaint is that they were navy blue instead of orange!
Before the game begun, representatives from the town of Cary and Wake Med Hospitals were on hand for a ribbon cutting to inaugurate the new renovations to the stadium. Wake Med Soccer Park can now hold 10,000 people, up from the previous 7,000. After the quick ribbon cutting, it was game on.
In the first minute the Railhawks had a solid chance on goal and almost scored only to see the goalie knock the shot behind for a corner. The resulting corner was defended well by the keeper, Lance Parker, and eventually FC Edmonton got it clear. Carolina continued to pressure but were unable to score early and the initiative turned Edmonton’s way. Edmonton’s best chance of the half occurred when forward Daryl Fordyce had an attempt that beat Akira Fitzgerald but struck the right post. Play ebbed and flowed for the rest of the half with both teams having their share of chances. The Railhawks seemed to have a slight advantage, but it looked as if either team could score first (NASL.com is reporting that FC Edmonton had a better half, but they must not have been watching the same match. Sure Edmonton may have had more shots on goal and they hit the frame once, but each goalie only had to make one save. Not sure about possession, but the Railhawks looked more of a threat.)
Another interesting note about the first half that most Railhawk fans probably didn’t notice: Suspended player Paul Hamilton sat with fans in the back of section 309 during the first half (maybe during the second half too, but I was busy watching the game). He spent some time talking to several members of the “309 Depot”, which was a nice touch for Railhawk fans.
With a scoreless first half , but both sides having chances, it was pretty evident their would be goals in this game. The Railhawks struck first and struck early. Ty Shipalane sped past several defenders and made an nice cross to the far post. Austin da Luz was there, and he met it squarely on his head. The keeper was nowhere to be seen and the lone defender was helpless as the ball whizzed past his head. 1-0 Railhawks.
The game resumed and continued to ebb and flow with each team creating chances. Akira Fitzgerald was forced to make a few good saves, and Edmonton had a real chance in the 59th minute when they hit the woodwork for the second time of the evening. A few minutes later Fitzgerald was taken out by Michael Cox, after clearing the ball, and Cox was shown a yellow. The referee seemed to confuse Cox with Carlyle Mitchell, and showed the player a red as if the card was his second yellow (Mitchell was already on a yellow). After a few seconds of confusion and protests from the players, the referee realized his mistake and rescinded the red card.
That wasn’t the only potential red for the night. A few minutes later in the 65th minute, Austen King stopped an Edmonton breakaway by taking down a player roughly 22 yards from goal. I felt he was lucky not to be sent off as he seemed to be the last defender (although, another defender was parallel to him and close by). Luckily, he was only shown a yellow and the wall did its job stopping the shot and rendering the goal scoring opportunity harmless.
There were still goals left in the game for both teams, however. In the 71st minute Austin da Luz was brought down just outside the box and the Railhawks were awarded a free kick. Brian Shriver stepped up to take the kick (picture below, seconds before the goal)…and he scored a beautiful goal, avoiding the wall, and slotting in the upper left head corner on the opposite of the goalie. Certainly a great strike, and it is very unlikely there was a better play of the week in the NASL.
Carolina almost conceded their first goal of the night 15 minutes later when, in the 84th minute, Edmonton had a shot deflected, and the followup chance put into the back of the net past goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald. Luckily, the player who scored was offsides and the goal was called back. The rest of the game had Edmonton knocking at the door and putting a lot of pressure on the Railhawks. The Railhawks plan seemed to be to clear the ball as quickly as possible to the forwards and let Edmonton come at them.. I was pretty disappointed at the quality of play during this period of the game. There was no possession for the Railhawks, just booting the ball forward and hoping a striker could run onto it. It was pretty clear the strikers were tired, and this strategy gave Edmonton a lot of possession. The Railhawks were ultimately punished for it. In the 92nd minute, Edmonton got one back with Sadi Jalali assisting Massimo Mirabelli to make it 2-1.
Edmonton kept trying to equalize for a few minutes more, but ultimately it was not enough and the Railhawks took victory, 2-1. Overall, the Railhawks did well for the home fans and scored two really nice goals. Shipalane, da Luz, and Fitzgerald all had great games, and I was really impressed with their play. Nick Zimmerman, the player with the second most goals in all of the NASL 2012 season, failed to played for the second game running. Chris Vurnakes confirmed via twitter than Zimmerman was out injured. Zimmerman had been trying out with several MLS teams, so there were some rumors swirling on the internet that he could be leaving, but this seems to not be the case.
The win puts the Railhawks in second, barely behind the Rowdies, with the only difference between the two sides being goal differential. Next week, the Railhawks play the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at 7:00 at home for the second week running.