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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Donovan scores (not that one): Carolina RailHawks down Puebla FC 2-1 in international friendly

Posted by on Sun, Jul 6, 2014 at 8:44 PM

Conor Donovan warms up at WakeMed Soccer Park for the U.S. U-20 team prior to their May 24 scrimmage against the Carolina RailHawks. Donovan scored a goal for the RailHawks today versus Puebla FC. - NEIL MORRIS
  • Neil Morris
  • Conor Donovan warms up at WakeMed Soccer Park for the U.S. U-20 team prior to their May 24 scrimmage against the Carolina RailHawks. Donovan scored a goal for the RailHawks today versus Puebla FC.
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—Donovan finally scored a goal at WakeMed Soccer Park. Just not the Donovan you were expecting.

Nearly two weeks ago, Landon Donovan and his LA Galaxy were blanked by the Carolina RailHawks on Field 2 in the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. This afternoon, back on the newly laid Bermuda turf of WakeMed Soccer Stadium, 18-year-old Conor Donovan started at center back for the RailHawks against Puebla F.C., the venerable Mexican club. Donovan’s header goal in the 38th minute gave the RailHawks the early lead, and Carolina held on for a 2-1 win in the midseason friendly.

Today’s international friendly was the first installment of a busy week for the RailHawks. This Wednesday, they host FC Dallas in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. Then next Saturday Carolina hosts Indy Eleven in the opening match of the North American Soccer League (NASL) fall season.

With the games coming thick and fast, RailHawks’ manager Colin Clarke fielded a starting XI comprising mostly bench contributors and a trio of one-off non-roster players: goalkeeper Tyler Deric, former Elon product Gabe Latigue and Donovan. Donovan, a member of the Capital Area RailHawks Academy and an incoming freshman at N.C. State, last appeared on WakeMed Stadium in May as part of the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team training camp in Raleigh.

Donovan’s goal came off a RailHawks corner kick by Latigue in the 38th minute. The 6-foot-2 Donovan drove near post and rose above Los Camoteros to deliver a deflection that clipped off the fingertips of Puebla goalkeeper Alfredo Frausto, rattled the underside of the crossbar, then landed across the goal line.

For all the accolades in Donovan's young career, this goal against such esteemable opposition ranks near the top.

“That’s something you dream of,” Donovan said. “I get chills still thinking about it now. The fans were awesome tonight. It was a lot of fun, and it was exciting to score.”

Clearly irritated at their surprise deficit, Puebla came out on their front foot after halftime. A shot from Saul Villalobos in the 53rd minute that bisected two RailHawks defenders sailed just over the crossbar.

Then, three minutes after entering the game, Ty Shipalane doubled Carolina’s advantage. Taking a pass ahead from team captain Nick Zimmerman in the 66th minute, Shipalane blew past his defender, chipped the ball ahead of onrushing Frausto, then calmly deposited the orb into the open net.

“You kind of put [the ball] in space for Ty and let him do the rest,” Zimmerman remarked. “I looked up, he made a good run, and I had acres of space to clip it in there and give him a chance. Credit to him: great touch around the goalie, and then the finish makes me look good.”

Zimmerman, who got his first start of the season today after missing 2013 with a knee injury, came off a minute later. Today’s assist came on the heels of his game-winning assist during the Galaxy game on June 24. With some roster departures and a long fall season looming, Zimmerman is one of the players and team leaders Carolina will need over rest of the 2014 campaign.

“I feel good, and I think the coaching staff is happy with the progress I’ve made,” Zimmerman said. “I think it’s one of those things now where you just want to get out there and play. It feels good to be back on that field.”

Ironically, it was after Clarke ran out his starters in the 67th minute for some tuneup time that Puebla got a goal back. In the 87th minute, a loose ball in the box found the boot of second-half sub Francisco Acuna, who blasted the ball past Deric to ruin the keeper’s clean sheet.

Puebla nearly equalized a minute later when an onside Villalobos blazed a trail to goal. However, his angled shot across the face of Deric bounded wide right to preserve the Carolina victory.

After match, Clarke appeared satisfied with his team’s output.

“Great result, good performance,” Clarke said. “It was great to get back to playing. It’s been almost two weeks since we had a game, so it was good to get back on the field and test out the new surface. Good crowd, enjoyable afternoon.”

The official attendance of 6,155 was split rather evenly between boisterous Latino supporters backing Puebla and RailHawks stalwarts who delighted in the unexpected hometown win.

The news was not all good for Carolina, however. After the match, Clarke confirmed that attempts to resign forward Mike Grella and defender Toni Stahl for the NASL fall season have “probably gone cold now, to be honest.”

“We’ve moved on,” Clarke continued. “They were two guys who were good for us the first half of the season, and we’re disappointed we don’t have them back. But these things happen and we have to move on.”

Carolina’s attention now turns squarely toward this Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup clash with FC Dallas. This is the first time the RailHawks have hosted an Open Cup quarterfinal match since 2007. Moreover, coin flips tomorrow morning at U.S. Soccer headquarters in Chicago will determine whether Carolina would host their Open Cup semifinal game should it defeat FC Dallas this week.

“We’re looking for a big crowd,” Clarke said. “Every time our fans come out and support us it makes a big difference. Hopefully they’ll come out in numbers on Wednesday night.”
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    “That’s something you dream of,” Conor Donovan said. “I get chills still thinking about it now."

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Three-beat: Carolina RailHawks defeat Donovan and LA Galaxy 1-0 in U.S. Open Cup

Posted by on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 2:06 AM

Landon Donovan is dispossessed by Enzo Martinez of the Carolina RailHawks during the RailHawks' 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. - PHOTO BY ANDY MEAD
  • Photo by Andy Mead
  • Landon Donovan is dispossessed by Enzo Martinez of the Carolina RailHawks during the RailHawks' 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—Shots: 31 to 6. Corner kicks: 11 to 4. Time of possession: seemingly infinity to nil.

In virtually every statistical category, the LA Galaxy held sway over the Carolina RailHawks during their fifth round match in the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Except one.

Goals: 1-0 RailHawks

It was the third consecutive year the RailHawks have hosted and now dispatched the Galaxy from the U.S. Open Cup. But unlike the previous two tournaments, this year was supposed to be different. First, Galaxy manager Bruce Arena actually made the trip to Cary (unlike 2013). The game didn’t take place in the nearly 10,000 seat WakeMed Soccer Stadium, but instead an adjacent Koka Booth Stadium (aka Field 2) lined with lawn and temporary bleacher seating with a maximum capacity of 3,000.

Moreover, unlike the roster of reservists the Galaxy have previously run out against the RailHawks, this year the Galaxy were playing for keeps.

“(W)e’re sick of losing to Carolina and we’re sick of going out of the Open Cup early,” said Landon Donovan in the run-up to tonight’s match. And so, the Galaxy fielded a formidable, full-strength lineup that included Robbie Keane, Juninho, Robbie Rogers, AJ DeLaGarza and Gyasi Zardes. And, oh by the way, the player with the most goals in both U.S. national and Major League Soccer history entered the game in the 64th minute.

On the other side, the RailHawks were fielding a bit of a patchwork starting XI that was missing starting striker Mike Grella and center back Toni Stahl. Both players’ Carolina contracts expired after the Chivas USA Open Cup win on June 14, and both players are absent while the team attempts to negotiate extensions for the NASL fall season.

And with starting goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald still injured, Scott Goodwin got his second straight start in goal. Against Chivas USA, all Goodwin did was make 11 saves in 120 minutes of regulation and overtime, then saved three kicks from the penalty mark to secure the RailHawks’ victory.

For those asking whether Goodwin could duplicate that stellar performance, the former Tar Heel standout answered tonight with a clean sheet and eight saves against the formidable Galaxy attack.

It was a hot and humid start on the sunbathed Field 2, still in the mid-80s at the 7 p.m. kickoff. And it was the Galaxy putting the heat on the RailHawks in the early going. The Galaxy dominated possession against a tentative Carolina squad, and the RailHawks’ usually potent offensive met its match against a big and fast Galaxy back line. LA snuffed out virtually every through ball and attempted attack from wingers Ty Shipalane and Cesar Elizondo.

But while the Galaxy sent one sortie after another into their attacking third, they were either shot down by Goodwin or cleared away by a RailHawks’ back line that barely made a misstep or ill-timed tackle the entire match. Quite simply, Connor Tobin, Daniel Scott, Austen King and Kupono Low were sublime in the back; RailHawks manager Colin Clarke said it was one of the best games he’s ever seen the 35-year-old Low play.

The RailHawks were fortunate to hold the Galaxy scoreless in the first half. But that second lease on the game appeared to galvanize Carolina’s resolve in the second stanza. While LA continued to dominate the run of play, Carolina began to find seams to attack after substituting off Shipalane and Elizondo, heroes of past Open Cup wins over the Galaxy and Chivas USA. With the Galaxy crowding the wings all match, the insertion of substitutes Daniel Jackson and Nick Zimmerman—making his first official RailHawks appearance since 2012—stretched the field and gave Carolina more punch through the middle.

In the 48th minute, Leonardo got a head on an LA corner kick, but his shot sailed wide and high. In the 50th minute, Kofi Opare got his own point blank header in the goalmouth, but Goodwin made a spectacular save.

In the 83rd minute, Donovan found the ball at his feet in the box and delivered a short range poke that Goodwin managed to reflexively swat away from danger.

In a game full of close calls, Goodwin said that was the closest.
A scrum between the Carolina RailHawks and LA Galaxy during Carolina's  1-0 win over the Galaxy Tuesday night in Cary, N.C. - PHOTO BY ANDY MEAD
  • Photo by Andy Mead
  • A scrum between the Carolina RailHawks and LA Galaxy during Carolina's 1-0 win over the Galaxy Tuesday night in Cary, N.C.

“I didn’t really think about it until five or ten minutes later,” Goodwin said. “I was like, ‘I think that was Donovan.’ You’re watching the ball and scrambling around, and you have no time to think about it during the game. It’s just onto the next play.”

In the 90th minute, Keane got free in the box and found himself in a 1-v-1 with Goodwin. But the Carolina keeper won that battle, too.

Just when it appeared the RailHawks would be fortunate to hold on for overtime, Carolina nearly snagged a shock winner on the final play of regulation. Finding space along the right flank, Jackson made an angled drive toward the south goal and cut loose a blast that was parried away by Galaxy goalkeeper Jamie Penedo.

In the 105th minute, the RailHawks improbably broke the scoreless deadlock. A one-two exchange between Jackson and Zimmerman ended with Zimmerman playing a nifty through ball behind Leonardo to a streaking, onside Jackson. With Keane and Donovan watching helplessly, Jackson drove to goal and powered his shot near post past Penedo for the 1-0 lead.

“On that possession, Nazmi [Albadawi] had a broke up play and he played it to me,” Jackson recalled. “I brought [the defender] in and played a one-touch with Zimmerman. I rolled around and [Zimmerman] played a ball through.”

From there, it was up to Jackson to notch his first RailHawks goal.

“It was a little similar to the [shot] I had before overtime,” Jackson said. “I mishit the previous one, but this time I just thought I’d blast it and see where it goes. It was near post and it was a good rip.”

It was a moment as sudden as it was unexpected. The crowd, a mix of mostly RailHawks fanatics interspersed with stargazers clad in U.S. national, Donovan Galaxy and Keane Celtic jerseys who had theretofore reserved their loudest collective cheer of the night for when Donovan entered the match, erupted in astonished bedlam.

From there, it was time for the RailHawks to intentionally park the bus. In the 114th, a seeing-eye header from Keane bounded wide left of goal. Three minutes later, Goodwin saved yet another blast in the box from Keane.

And even with three more minutes added by the referee on top of the 15-minute second overtime period, the Galaxy could never find the back of the net.

After the match, Bruce Arena declined to speak with the media, sending associate head coach Dave Sarachan in his stead. When Sarachan wasn’t griping about the supposedly poor lighting illuminating Field 2, he reflected the mood of the snakebitten Galaxy.

“It’s a quiet locker room,” Sarachan said, “because they’re disappointed and because they put everything out there today.”

Donovan was incredulous yet gracious in defeat.

“You have to give them a lot of credit,” Donovan said. “99 times out of a hundred you win that game. [The RailHawks] had everything go their way tonight. They played well, they defended well and their goalie had one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. And they got the goal that they needed.

“We can’t fault our effort. We gave everything, but everyone’s been part of games like that in soccer. It’s a crazy, cruel game sometimes.”

With three straight Open Cup wins over the Galaxy on top of knocking LA out of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League when he was managing the Puerto Rico Islanders, Clarke has become quite the burr in the Galaxy’s saddle.

“[The Galaxy] are a great team,” Clarke said. “They’ve been one of the best teams in the country for a long time. They have players with lots of talent, and they play the right way. We knew we were going to have to defend to get the result … We found a way to get a win, which is pretty special.”

The RailHawks’ midseason NASL break is turning into anything but. Carolina now advances to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup for the second straight season. Riding an unbeaten home streak that has now reached 23 games, the RailHawks will host FC Dallas in the quarterfinals match on July 9.

But before that, the RailHawks will undoubtedly take a few days to bask in the afterglow of this victory. It was an unusual outcome to an unusual event, where the RailHawks were tasked with the Herculean task of putting together a high-profile match on a converted practice field in just over a week. The configuration of the venue created a festive environment for fans. The players had to navigate their way through the stands in order to enter and exit both the park and field, and the fans took advantage of the close proximity to snare autographs from Donovan, Keane and others.

Indeed, before saluting his players, Clarke first paid tribute to the team’s staff.

“Under tough circumstances of having to play out on Field 2, the staff put that together on short notice,” Clarke gushed. “I thought it looked professional and well set up. It was great to play on, and that goes a long way to winning the game. They made it a special game.”
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    "It’s a crazy, cruel game sometimes," said Landon Donovan.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Report: Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane Carolina-bound for Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup match versus RailHawks

Posted by on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 5:11 PM

The LA Galaxy train on Field 2 at WakeMed Soccer Park last year prior to their U.S. Open Cup loss to the Carolina RailHawks. Field 2 will be the site of next Tuesday's Open Cup re-re-match between the RailHawks and Galaxy. - PHOTO BY NEIL MORRIS
  • Photo by Neil Morris
  • The LA Galaxy train on Field 2 at WakeMed Soccer Park last year prior to their U.S. Open Cup loss to the Carolina RailHawks. Field 2 will be the site of next Tuesday's Open Cup re-re-match between the RailHawks and Galaxy.
Uh, Carolina RailHawks … I think you’re gonna need some bigger bleachers.

In an online report posted today by LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano, both Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane stated they believe they’ll be available for selection in next Tuesday’s match against the RailHawks in the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The game takes place on Field 2 at WakeMed Soccer Park and kicks off at 7 p.m.

This follows and confirms information provided to INDY Week yesterday by a reliable source that the Galaxy intends to bring their full available squad to Cary next week.

This will be the third consecutive year the RailHawks have hosted the Galaxy in Open Cup competition, with Carolina winning each of the previous two encounters.

Donovan, who remains with the Galaxy after being left off the U.S. Men’s National Team currently competing in the FIFA World Cup, said he hopes to play from the outset of Tuesday’s match.

“We’re all expecting to play in this game,” Donovan told reporters today. “We’re sick of losing to Carolina and we’re sick of going out of the Open Cup early.”

Keane said he also expects to travel with the team, but he did not forecast how much expects to play against the RailHawks.

This news casts a further pall over the RailHawks' need to switch the location for next week’s match from the nearly 10,000-plus WakeMed Soccer Stadium to the adjacent Koka Booth Stadium, aka Field 2. The Town of Cary is currently re-sodding the main stadium with Bermuda turf, making it unplayable.

News of Donovan and Keane’s presence next week would expect to drive up ticket sales for the match. However, even with temporary seating being brought onto Field 2 by the RailHawks, the expected capacity for next Tuesday’s match is currently only around 3,000.
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    RailHawks, I think you're gonna need some bigger bleachers.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kick in the Grass: Carolina RailHawks host LA Galaxy next Tuesday, but will you have a seat?

Posted by on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 9:02 AM

Bermuda sod being laid at WakeMed Soccer Stadium last Monday, June 16 - PHOTO BY NEIL MORRIS
  • Photo by Neil Morris
  • Bermuda sod being laid at WakeMed Soccer Stadium last Monday, June 16
With their 2-1 win over Arizona United SC last night, the LA Galaxy advanced to the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Their next opponent is a familiar interleague foe: the Carolina RailHawks.

The RailHawks have hosted the Galaxy in Open Cup competition two straight years. And for two straight years, the RailHawks have defeated the Galaxy, eliminating them from the tournament. But unlike 2012 and 2013, when the Galaxy games set RailHawks attendance records, this year’s clash will be a decidedly more intimate affair.

The RailHawks-Galaxy match next Tuesday, June 24 will not be played in the nearly 10,000-seat WakeMed Soccer Stadium. Instead, it will be played on the adjacent Koka Booth Stadium, more commonly known as Field 2. The change stems from a change of sod currently taking place in the main stadium, a changeover from ryegrass to Bermuda grass that must occur now and requires several weeks to mature and become playable.

According to RailHawks president Curt Johnson, the timing of the resodding was a collaborative decision made between the RailHawks' front office and the Town of Cary, which manages and maintains the soccer park’s facilities and grounds.

“We looked at this months ago, when the best window to [resod] would be,” Johnson explains. “Obviously you’re going to pick a window when you’re not sure whether you’ll have a game or not. There wasn’t an alternative to not do the resod; per the Town of Cary, it had to be done. So we picked the time that seemed best at the time.”

At that time, the RailHawks knew their final home of the NASL spring season would be May 31. They also expected to host a friendly against Puebla FC in early July and needed the main stadium ready for a Mexican club match that traditionally draws large crowds. Thus, in speaking to RailHawks officials and a Town of Cary groundskeeper, the main stadium sod changeover was originally scheduled for the first week of June.

However, US Soccer announced in late April that the fourth round of the Open Cup, when all Major League Soccer (MLS) teams enter the tournament, would be played June 10-18. Knowing the probability that the RailHawks would advance past the third round, club officials realized Carolina had a literal coin flip chance that it would host a MLS team in the Open Cup in mid-June. The decision was then made to play the odds and delay the main stadium resodding until after the potential fourth round match. Indeed, the RailHawks did end up hosting—and defeating—Chivas USA of MLS in the fourth round last Saturday.

On June 3, Carolina learned that it might host a potential fifth round match against the LA Galaxy-Arizona United winner. However, waiting until after the Chivas match left only one window to changeover the turf before the July 6 Puebla friendly and the encroaching summer heat burned off the ryegrass.

According to Johnson, after learning of their right to host the fifth round match, perhaps against the Galaxy, “we went back and talked about it [with the Town of Cary] again, just to do a sanity check and make sure is there anything we can do. But financially, it’s way too expensive for us and the Town.”

Essentially, the only option available was laying a thicker cut of Bermuda sod on the main stadium. It’s the sort of sod commonly laid down in rapid fashion by large stadiums equipped with permanent artificial turf for high-profile friendlies, World Cup qualifying matches and other international competitions. However, the cost difference between the thinner and thicker cuts of Bermuda sod is approximately $250,000, an amount far in excess of the increased revenue generated by hosting the Galaxy game in the main stadium as opposed to Field 2.

“It was a five second conversation when I saw the number,” Johnson says. “It was just way too expensive.”

Johnson said a variety of venue options were considered. The club reached out to representatives at UNC, NC State and Duke, but none of their soccer facilities were available. One option that wasn’t considered, however, was moving the match outside the area.

“We weren’t going to move it out of the Triangle,” Johnson said. “That wasn’t an option. We want to have [the game] here so our local fans can see the game.”
Koka Booth Stadium, aka Field 2, at WakeMed Soccer Park - PHOTO BY NEIL MORRIS
  • Photo by Neil Morris
  • Koka Booth Stadium, aka Field 2, at WakeMed Soccer Park

Koka Booth Stadium has a permanent seating capacity of just over 500. However, the RailHawks front office is procuring temporary bleachers to erect along the open west side of the field. The club also plans to sell seating in the grass embankments bracketing the east bleachers and in the northern end zone.

Earlier this week, club officials could not provide an exact seating capacity for next Tuesday’s game, but they estimate it will be between 2,000 and 3,000. Tickets expect to designate a specific seating section (east bleachers, west bleachers or one of the grass areas). However, there will not be assigned seating within each section. 309 Depot, the RailHawks’ supporters group, will occupy the north end zone area.

The RailHawks are also working to set up a temporary press box for the match.

“It’s a bear to host the game in that venue,” Johnson says. “But it would have been a bear to host it in any venue other than our regular stadium.”

The most unfortunate side effect of this change in venue will be the potential decreased attendance and revenue for another Open Cup game against MLS competition. Using an average single game ticket price of 16 dollars, a loss in attendance of 5,000 results in lost revenue of $80,000. That does not take into account associated decreases in parking and concession fees, to say nothing of the trickle down effect that comes with attracting new people and media to such high profile games. And, of course, there's the ebb in home field advantage for the RailHawks, who can't have the energy of 8,000 fans who have previously cheered them onto victory over the Galaxy.

Still, the existing Field 2 turf is immaculate, so there shouldn't be a problem with field condition. And credit to the RailHawks for applying to host the match despite the fact that hosting a fourth round U.S. Open Cup match requires paying US Soccer a minimum flat fee of at least $18,000.

“We still have a wonderful facility, and Koka Booth Stadium has hosted ACC tournament games and training sessions for club and national teams,” Johnson says. “The surface is better than 99 percent of the other surface around the country. And we wanted to host the game here in front of our home fans.”
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    Next Tuesday's match won't be played on WakeMed Soccer Stadium, but instead the adjacent Field 2.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Great Scott: Goodwin the newest RailHawks U.S. Open Cup hero as Carolina defeats Chivas USA

Posted by on Sun, Jun 15, 2014 at 2:53 AM

RailHawks goalkeeper Scott Goodwin - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAROLINA RAILHAWKS
  • Photo courtesy of Carolina RailHawks
  • RailHawks goalkeeper Scott Goodwin
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—In soccer, it’s commonly called a penalty shootout. However, the Laws of the Game officially refer to the tiebreaker as “kicks from the penalty mark.” Regardless of the moniker, it’s a construct that’s long been the subject of intense fan debate. Some decry it as a contrived method to determine the winner of a hard-fought match, something akin to deciding a basketball game by a free throw shooting contest or an American football game by alternating 30-yard field goal attempts.

Others point out that after 120 minutes of exhausting play between teams allowed only three substitutions all game, you have to do something to crown a winner when necessary other than wait for the last man standing. Moreover, kicks from the mark aren’t simply a matter of shooting from close range into an empty net. Yes, the kick taker has a significant advantage. But he must also overcome fatigue, nerves and an agile goalkeeper looming between ball and net.

Kicks from the penalty mark were taken Saturday night between the Carolina RailHawks and Chivas USA of Major League Soccer to decide their fourth round tie in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. On one side was Dan Kennedy, the veteran Chivas USA goalkeeper and team captain now in his seventh season with the MLS club. On the other side was Scott Goodwin, the RailHawks’ 23-year-old backup goalkeeper making only his second start since joining the club this season. Goodwin, a former UNC Tar Heels standout, spent last year playing soccer in Iceland before latching onto the RailHawks’ squad.

But after a “shootout” that saw Goodwin make three saves, Kennedy make two, and both teams convert only five of their combined 14 kick attempts, a successful conversion by Daniel Jackson gave the RailHawks a win over Chivas USA 1-1 (3-2 shootout) to advance to the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

The win also extends the RailHawks’ home unbeaten streak to 22 games.

Continue reading…

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    Goodwin—the former UNC Tar Heels standout—made 11 saves during the run of play, then three more during the penalty shootout.

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Turf burned - FC Edmonton pummels Carolina RailHawks 6-1 to close NASL spring season

Posted by on Sun, Jun 8, 2014 at 9:07 PM

Akira RailHawks can't reach an FC Edmonton goal during the Eddies' 6-1 win over the RailHawks. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NASL.COM
  • Photo courtesy of
  • Akira RailHawks can't reach an FC Edmonton goal during the Eddies' 6-1 win over the RailHawks.
WEBCAST—For all the rapturous hosannas heaped on the Carolina RailHawks following their home win last Saturday, their Mr. Hyde side was on acute display this afternoon at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton. It’s a lunacy of silver linings to note that the RailHawks doubled their 2014 road goal output during today’s 6-1 shellacking at the feet/heads of FC Edmonton. It’s sobering reality to point out that the Eddies’ goal total today alone exceeded their overall 2014 goal output coming into the match (five) by 120 percent.

The die was cast a mere 37 seconds in when Daryl Fordyce maneuvered through a porous RailHawks defense and slipped a shot past goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald. for the early lead. Edmonton doubled the margin in the 13th when some comically bad set piece defending off an Eddies free kick supplied Tomi Ameobi with a header goal and 2-0 lead.

Lance Laing—who torched the RailHawks defenders along the left wing all game—extended the lead to 3-0 with seeing-eye skimmer in the 31st minute. Fordyce added insult to injury in the 43rd minute, as a hopeful hit from distance proved helpful once it deflected off the hip of RailHawks defender Austen King, causing the orb to loop over the head of an already misdirected Fitzgerald for a 4-0 halftime lead.

Carolina got a goal back in the 74th minute. Mike Grella, who squandered two shots in the box in the first half, delivered a cross from the left side of the box that found its way across Edmonton keeper John Smits to Connor Tobin standing goalmouth. Tobin deposited the sitter to cut the lead to 4-1.

However, Edmonton reclaimed the advantage a minute later. Driving past a step-slow Daniel Scott, Fordyce half-volleyed home a cross into the box to secure his hat trick and a 5-1 lead.

The final blow came during added time when an Edmonton long ball into the box was swatted down by King, capping an especially egregious day for the RailHawks center back. Sadi Jalali was given the honors of converting the PK to account for the final score.

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    The RailHawks finish the NASL's spring season fourth in the league standings.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

The return of the prodigal goalscorer: Carolina RailHawks defeat Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0, extend 21 home match unbeaten streak

Posted by on Sun, Jun 1, 2014 at 1:12 AM

Brian Shriver of the Tampa Bay Rowdies departs the pitch following their 2-0 loss to the Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C. - NEIL MORRIS
  • Neil Morris
  • Brian Shriver of the Tampa Bay Rowdies departs the pitch following their 2-0 loss to the Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C.
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—After Brian Shriver scored two goals for the Carolina RailHawks in their last game of 2013, giving him a personal- and league-best 15 for the year, the NASL Golden Boot winner alluded to his future plans.

“I love it here, and hopefully things work out,” the out-of-contract Shriver said at the time. “But in the end it is a business, so we’ll see what happens.”

Quite understandably, what happened was that Shriver took the money and ran to Tampa Bay, signing a lucrative contract with the newly flush Rowdies. However, 2014 hasn’t proven as fruitful for Shriver thus far. He has only one goal this season and missed the Rowdies’ last three regular season matches due to a right ankle sprain.

Saturday evening, Shriver made his first trip back at WakeMed Soccer Park since that 2013 finale last November. For pregame tailgating, the fatted calf took patty form. And while some former teammates were happy to renew acquaintances, most of Shriver’s ex-RailHawks brothers were undoubtedly aching to get one over on the prodigal goalscorer.

Indeed, not Shriver’s second-half appearance, nor Tampa Bay’s possession advantage, nor the Rowdies’ 21 shots were enough to upend the Carolina RailHawks home ground dominance. Carolina defeated the Rowdies 2-0 before 7,856 fans, a new RailHawks regular season attendance record. The win extends the RailHawks' home unbeaten streak to 21 games.

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    The RailHawks win took place before a regular season record attendance of 7,856.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Carolina RailHawks clip Charlotte Eagles 2-0 to advance in U.S. Open Cup

Posted by on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 12:21 AM

WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—The last time the Carolina RailHawks faced the Charlotte Eagles in a competitive soccer match was the first round of the 2010 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The RailHawks won that game 1-0 at WakeMed Soccer Park.

Four years later, another U.S. Open Cup clash between the in-state avian rivals produced a similar outcome. The RailHawks clipped the Eagles 2-0 Wednesday evening in Cary, paced by two first-half goals from Nazmi Albadawi and Jun Marques Davidson. Carolina now advances to the third round of the 2014 Open Cup and will host Chivas USA of Major League Soccer on June 14.

The win also extends the RailHawks' home unbeaten streak to 20 games.

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    The win also extends the RailHawks' home unbeaten streak to 20 games.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Loss leaves Mudcats harder road to catch Myrtle Beach

Posted by on Sat, May 24, 2014 at 9:35 PM

Mudcats ace Shawn Morimando responded with a quality start Saturday night.
  • Photo by Dean Strickland, OD
  • Mudcats ace Shawn Morimando responded with a quality start Saturday night.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It's opportunity time for the Carolina Mudcats, as they continue their series with the first-place Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Carolina, which is in third place in the Carolina League's Southern Division and 6 1/2 games behind Myrtle Beach, won the opener of their four-game series on Friday night and have seven more games left against the Pelicans with 25 games left in the first half.

Tonight, Carolina ace Shawn Morimando (5-2, 3.83) will take on the Pelicans' Sam Wolff (4-3, 3.06). Carolina hitting coach Tony Mansolino is managing in place of Scooter Tucker, who has taken a short personal leave.

And on this night the Pelicans get the best of it, scoring four runs in the seventh inning in a 6-2 win.

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    Morimando solid in a no-decision.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Perez, Louisville sneak past Bulls in extra-inning nail-biter

Posted by on Mon, May 19, 2014 at 11:18 PM

Bulls outfielder Jerry Sands takes a cut.
  • File photo by Orin Day
  • Bulls outfielder Jerry Sands takes a cut.
DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK Another check-in on the Durham Bulls, who are tied for their usual first-place spot in the International League's South Division.

Tonight is Game 3 of a four-game set against the Louisville Bats, the Cincinnati Reds' affiliate which is in third place in the West Division. The teams have split their first two meetings, and will square off again in Mid-June at Louisville Slugger Field.

Merrill Kelly (4-1, 2.47) will square off with the Bats' Wang Chien-Ming (3-4, 4,79) on a cool spring evening.

The teams go toe-to-toe for 10 innings, but the Bats' Felix Perez wins it 4-3 with a triple in the extra frame.

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    Lee's ninth-inning hit ties it, but Bulls score no more.

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