Rain delayed the kickoff by an hour and a half, denting an already sparse crowd and leaving both teams listless for much of the first half. The park was so quiet that you could hear individual fans clapping, or berating the official, but credit to the 1,426 diehards who wiped off damp seats.
Insiders may have enjoyed listening to players talk to each other (captain Mark Schulte yelling at the linesmen to “catch up” after he incorrectly awarded Miami a throw-in), but for the most part, there wasn’t much to write about other than a second half Miami goal slotted home from a rebound.
Then Gregory Richardson stepped onto the pitch. With his first touch, a streaking Richardson nodded home a Greg Shields cross to level the score in the 71st minute. With his second touch three minutes later, the Guyanese international beat a defender down the flank, and chipped a ball to Etienne Barbara, whose scissor-kick volley from 15 yards skipped off of the grass and into the bottom corner.
Orange and blue smoke poofed up from the Triangle Soccer Fanatics section, and the RailHawks achieved the first comeback victory in the franchise’s four-year history.
Perhaps adding to his mystique, Richardson was on the treatment table after the match and unavailable for interview.
Coach Martin Rennie did the speaking for him.
“He’s a quality player. He’s got great skills great ability to beat people and score goals, and tonight he showed that it won us the game, so that’s what we love about him,” he said.
Barbara also credited Richardson with adding life to a frustrating game, spent mostly trying to play long balls over the heads of Miami’s five-man midfield and exploit the three-man back line.
(In addition to the recently introduced dead-ball music at WakeMed Park, new things include inflatable sumo wrestling at halftime. As one member of the Triangle Offense reporting team noted, the atmosphere is getting more Durham Bulls-like, with a few familiar baseball ditties and promotions. Fans also were treated to Taste of the Triangle, where $3 bought a food sample smorgasbord of food from dozens of local restaurants.)
Rennie had an “oh, no, not this again” moment after the team conceded the goal to Miami’s Paul Araujo “from nothing” and when striker Andriy Budnyy had enough time to tee up a shot inside the box and kill off the game but failed to put it on net.
It was also nice for the RailHawks to be on the other side of a stoppage time controversy.
Following tradition, the scoreboard operator at WakeMed Park doesn’t run a clock in lights after the amount of stoppage time is announced, four minutes in this case. Observers are left to follow the stopwatches on their phones. Ours read 3:20 when referee Kyle Trimble went tweet-tweet.
Miami FC Head Coach Daryl Shore pointed to his watch and continued walking toward Trimble even as several players, officials and the RailHawks staff members got in between the two men. It took at least one minute before Shore turned back.
“To be fair, we did have the ball here and we would’ve played it in the corner,” Rennie said, adding that he was still relieved to hear the whistle.
“Maybe it takes that negative thought away from us and really allows us to enjoy playing at home.”
The RailHawks are just now beginning to enjoy the home cooking, though. After struggling much of the season the duplicate their stellar road from in Cary, the RailHawks now have won two of the last three.
The RailHawks travel to matches in Austin and Tampa Bay and return home Saturday, Aug. 28, for a game against the Puerto Rico Islanders.
And finally, five minutes with Miami FC goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell...
Miami FC’s Caleb Patterson-Sewell spoke exclusively to Triangle Offense after the match, his first game in WakeMed since playing for the RailHawks last season. After an off-season spent trialing and training with different clubs, including the New York Red Bulls, he signed with Miami just before the start of this season. Patterson-Sewell discussed his last-place team’s plight this season and his belief that they still can make the playoffs.