FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Checking in on the Carolina Mudcats, who are in last place and seven games out of first in the Southern Division of an unbalanced Carolina League.
Carolina will go for the series win tonight, sending southpaw Mike Rayl (3-5, 4.07) against Wilmington’s Sugar Ray Marimon (3-0, 2.13).
The Mudcats rally for five runs in the eighth inning to break a tie, prevailing 7-2 to take three wins in the four-game series.
While a couple of other NASL clubs—rightly or wrongly—celebrated their Open Cup victories last Tuesday by selling the third-round home match rights to their MLS competitors for a proverbial 30 pieces of silver, what the RailHawks gave this Tuesday's crowd of 7,939, the largest in franchise history, was priceless.
The RailHawks converted two second-half goals in front of fans filling the newly erected and inspected North Stand, overcoming a halftime deficit to defeat the Galaxy 2-1 and advance to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
Another group of proper footballers rolled into Cary today as the L.A. Galaxy—defending MLS champions and the most popular club in American club soccer—arrived to prepare for a Tuesday evening tangle against the Carolina RailHawks—currently mired at the bottom of the Second Division NASL table—in the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
And like the cinematic depiction of Clough and company huddled around the radio and yelping with glee when the home draw against Leeds was announced—”It’s Leeds! It’s Leeds!”—the front office of the Carolina RailHawks has spent the past week completing new grandstands, reconfiguring parking and traffic patterns, enjoying heightened local and national media attention and selling out the game at WakeMed Soccer Park in a matter of hours.
However, the Galaxy side that takes on the RailHawks will be missing many of its most familiar faces. Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane are away on international call-up, and the Galaxy finally disclosed yesterday that David Beckham would not be making the trip to Cary.
According to Justin Pearson, senior communications manager for the Galaxy, Beckham is one of several players who put in a full 90 minutes in Houston yesterday against the Dynamo who returned directly to Los Angeles. They would not be able to play two games with just two full days' rest. Moreover, Tuesday will be the Galaxy's third match in seven days, including last Wednesday's game against the San Jose Earthquakes.
In addition to Beckham, other notable absences for the Galaxy include Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, both away on international call-up. Donovan netted a hat trick in the U.S. men's national team's 5-1 victory over Scotland Saturday evening.
The Galaxy will take part in a training session tomorrow at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Open Cup match against the RailHawks kicks off Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.
DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK It’s the finale of the Durham Bulls’ homestand, which may become known for years as the “Matsui mania” stand.
Matsui, who will play left field for the second straight night, comes into tonight’s contest hitting .121 with no homers and four RBI in nine games in the cleanup spot. Whether or not Matsui will still be with the Bulls – or promoted, or released – when they get back home on June 5 against the Empire State Yankees.
Tonight’s opponent, the Norfolk Tides - who pitched a one-hitter against Durham on Thursday - have a former big-league star of their own on the roster in Miguel Tejada. Tejada is hitting .429 with no homers and three RBI in four games with the Tides.
Shane Dyer (0-1, 7.20) will go for the Bulls against Brad Bergesen (2-2, 5.03).
This time Matsui delivers, going 3-for-4 with an intentional walk plus the single to start the winning rally as the Bulls win 4-3 in 10 innings.
The Durham Bulls lost last night’s game to the Norfolk Tides 4-0. The stars of the game were: Tides starting RHP Miguel Gonzales, who no-hit the Bulls for five innings and faced only 16 batters before being lifted for a reliever in the sixth inning; Bulls starting right-hander Chris Archer, from nearby Clayton, who gave up five hits and three runs in six innings while striking out 12 and walking only two; and Tides first-baseman Joe Mahoney who hit a two-run triple into the right-center gap off an Archer off-speed pitch in the third inning.
Yet, I have to write about Bulls left fielder Hideki Matsui, age 37. He is, after last night, in his attempt to make it back to the big leagues, a mere four-for-33 (.121) in nine games in a Bulls’ uniform. In the locker room after the game he appeared dejected in his attempt to make it back to the big leagues with the Tampa Bay Rays. But there’s no telling how much No. 55 Matsui gear the Durham Bulls’ merchandise shop has sold in the last nine days. Judging from the crowd at DBAP last night, it’s a lot. There were also nearly 30 Japanese media credentials issued for last night, including for a daily newspaper with a circulation of 10 million.
Matsui played seven seasons for the New York Yankees. In 2010 he signed with the California Angels. Look at this picture depicting how he was received in his first game back in New York that season.
4:40 p.m. UPDATE: Triangle Offense contacted David Vaught, director of operations for the Carolina RailHawks. The "current allotment" has been sold, Vaught said, but the team expects 1,500 additional seats for the new north stand to become available Friday.
Vaught said approximately 1,000 were sold last night to season ticket holders, and the rest were sold today in about three and a half hours. Approximately 6,500 tickets have been sold.
The expansion of WakeMed Soccer Park isn't expected to be completed until autumn, but Cary town officials are racing to open one new stand in time for Tuesday's game between the Carolina RailHawks and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Keith Jenkins, athletic facility supervisor for the town, confirmed that the finishing touches are being applied and the north stand should be open in time for the 7 p.m. game, which will be in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Inspections would also have to be completed before the section can open, but Jenkins says there should be time for that, too.
"That's what we're expecting," he said.
The facility has been under renovation all season as part of the $6.3 million makeover that will add 3,000 seats to the north and east sides, along with dressing rooms and luxury suites to the 10-year-old facility.
During recent games, sections in the middle of the stadium's east side have been closed. Jenkins said they will be closed on Tuesday.
If the north stand is opened in time for Tuesday's game, Jenkins said WakeMed Soccer Park's seating capacity will be 8,048.
But before visions of David Beckham could start dancing in their heads, the RailHawks had to accomplish something they haven’t all season: win a competitive soccer match. And for all the hoopla already surrounding next week’s production of “L.A. Galaxy Is Coming to Town,” Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup second round match against PSA Elite, played before 1,323 diehards, was the most important game in RailHawks history.
A win would not only advance Carolina in the Open Cup for the first time in two years, but it would give them a match in Cary against the flagship franchise of MLS with all the fan, media and financial incentives that come with it. A loss, on the other hand, would deny the winless RailHawks a home match against the Galaxy after being eliminated from the Open Cup by a fifth division amateur club. In other words, never in RailHawks franchise history have the consequences of winning or losing a single match been so wide and stark.
The RailHawks showed up for the occasion, however, dominating their overmatched guests from the West Coast on their way to an emphatic 6-0 victory. Brian Shriver netted four goals, including a first-half hat trick, becoming only the 25th player to earn a hat trick and the ninth player to score four goals in an Open Cup match in the Modern Pro Era, according to Josh Hakala of TheCup.us.
DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK The Durham Bulls will finish their series against the Charlotte Knights with one of those “getaway day” afternoon games the International League seems to enjoy.
The Bulls have a nice 14-10 record at home, and lead the current series 2 games to 1.
“Matsui mania” remains alive and well at the ballpark. Hideki Matsui’s entourage of 35 Japanese media is still in the house, and will be remaining as long as the one nicknamed “Godzilla” is still on the Bulls roster.
Meanwhile the Knights roster has plenty of familiar faces, as Duke alum Jim Gallagher and former Bulls Dan Johnson and Ray Olmedo are all in the lineup today, with former Bull Hector Gimenez getting the day off.
The Bulls will send Jim Paduch (2-1, 2.74) to the hill against Terry Doyle (2-3, 3.66).
Charlotte outhits the Bulls 11-6 and wins 5-2 to earn a split of the series.
And despite the dropoff in attendance that’s certain to occur over the early weekdays, “Matsui mania” is still alive and well. Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui will be in his seventh game as a Bull after going 1-for-3 with a sac fly and a mad dash from first to score a run on Sunday against the Charlotte Knights..
Matsui’s entourage of 35 Japanese media is still in the house, and will be remaining as long as the one nicknamed “Godzilla” is still on the Bulls roster. He’s hitting .143 with three RBI but is still seeking his first homer for Durham.
Meanwhile the Knights roster has plenty of familiar faces, as Duke alum Jim Gallagher and former Bulls Hector Gimenez, Dan Johnson and Ray Olmedo are all in the lineup tonight.
The Bulls will send Lance Pendleton (1-1, 4.15) to the hill against Charlotte’s Charlie Leesman (3-4, 2.59).
Matsui gets his biggest hit as a Bull, driving home the winner with one out in the 10th as Durham prevails 3-2 in 10 innings.