Second was yet another Ty Shipalane showcase. Now firmly ensconced in the RailHawks' starting XI, the South African added a brace to his growing list of seasonal exploits as he paced Carolina to a 3-1 NASL playoff victory over the Strikers.
It’s a rare purchase of a home game against an FBS team, meaning the Tar Heels will be writing the Vandals an $800,000 check and not making the return trip to the Kibbie Dome.
UNC (2-2) is looking to get above .500 for the first time since the opening win over Elon, while Idaho (0-4) is looking for what would be one of the biggest wins in school history.
And the Tar Heels get the win in a big way, with a school-record point total in a 66-0 demolition.
Before the 2012 second season begins, however, it’s worth looking back at the year’s worth of memorable soccer already generated by this cast of RailHawks. Most of these highlights (or lowlights, in a few instances) are whole games, and some are individual achievements. But in a season full of ups and downs (followed by more ups and downs), they’re all the product of a team that continues to surprise its supporters.
It’s Week 5 of the college season, and although a lot of football has been played it’s still very unclear how Triangle campaigns are going to pan out.
Today’s road games for Duke and N.C. State may begin to give a clearer indication.
Duke (3-1), meanwhile, faces the game that could determine how its season goes when it travels to Wake Forest (3-1, 1-0 ACC) for its ACC opener at 12:30 p.m. in a game to be shown on WRAL. The Blue Devils walloped Memphis 38-14 last week while the Deacons were topping Army 49-37.
N.C. Central (2-2, 1-0 MEAC), which will take on conference foe South Carolina State in the Circle City Classic next week in Indianapolis, is idle.
So, it was a night for reservists and erstwhile regulars on both teams to get another run. For the RailHawks, Brian Ackley, Austin Da Luz and Breiner Ortiz, all coming off injuries and diminished playing opportunities, received their first starts in weeks. Middle Creek High and CASL product Nick Millington along with loanees Luke Sassano and Matt Luzunaris got their first starts as RailHawks. John Krause and Jamie Finch made cameo returns to the back line. Wakefield High and N.C. State grad Justin Willis made his NASL debut, coming on in the 86th minute.
The Rowdies also rested a number of key personnel, including Stuart Campbell, Luke Mulholland and Mike Ambersley. And, defender Andres Arango was suspended due to yellow card accumulation
It was even a night for old adversaries like RailHawks’ manager Colin Clarke and Rowdies’ gaffer Ricky Hill to catch up, commensurating at length on the field during pregame warmups. Perhaps they were comparing coaching notes, or perhaps they were recalling their English playing days when Clarke was suiting up for Southampton and Hill was on the tail end of a 12-year stint with Luton Town. Or as Clarke called it, “that era when the shorts were very tight and the hair was a little longer than what it is now.”
The final result was a scoreless, foul-filled draw, the first 0-0 home tie since Sept. 11, 2010 against the Portland Timbers. Both clubs attempted 13 shots each but were whistled for a whopping 38 total fouls (24 by Tampa Bay and 14 by Carolina). Tampa’s best scoring chance came in the 4th minute, when Rowdies’ forward Carl Cort muscled past Krause for a 1-v-1 with goalkeeper Ray Burse. However, Burse smothered Cort’s sure shot, just one of five acrobatic saves for the RailHawks keeper.
Today’s visitor is in-state rival East Carolina (2-1), which is coming off a 24-14 win at traditional foe Southern Mississippi last week.
UNC played its two losses without all-everything back Gio Bernard, who is back from the injury list and ready to go against the Pirates.
The Tar Heels have won two straight in the series, including a 35-20 victory in Greenville last season.
Today UNC breaks away after a close first half, scoring the last 17 points en route to a 27-6 win.
After this Saturday’s 1-0 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers (4-3-1, 1-1-0 ACC) in Chapel Hill, Somoano saw things a bit differently.
“These teams [we are playing] are good teams, and you can either manipulate the ball through them or you can’t. And we’re struggling with that. Our decisions are not great and we’ve got to get better. I actually thought last week against Wake [Forest] we did OK. I thought we played better than we played tonight.”
After a back and forth first half, the lone score came in the 47th minute when Danny Garcia played a short through ball ahead to a streaking Andy Craven. Craven gathered his dribble and drove straight at Wahoos goalkeeper Spencer LaCivita before uncorking a seeing eye blast that dissected LaCivita’s legs on its way into the net.
“Josh [Rice] collected the free kick...and Danny Garcia collected the loose ball and found me through,” Craven recalled. “He’s our leading assist guy, so I’m ready to pounce on anything whenever he gets the ball. It was just good timing and great vision from them, and I just put [the ball] through the keeper’s legs.”
A tight win over a conference foe—which brought a sizable and vocal contingent with them from Charlottesville—should always been savored. What’s more, senior UNC goalkeeper Scott Goodwin became the school’s career leader in shutouts, registering the 29th clean sheet of his career to surpass Michael Ueltschey’s previous record.
However, this game was also the exaggerated epitome of a troubling trend running through Carolina’s early-season games. In soccer, it’s not uncommon for a team to collect more fouls than shot attempts in a game. However, Carolina and Virginia combined for fewer shot attempts (16) than the number of fouls committed by either team individually—23 against North Carolina and 18 against Virginia— to go along with five second-half yellow cards. What’s more, this is the fourth Tar Heels match this season (out of seven total) in which neither side tallied more shots than fouls.
Somoano had his own thoughts about this particular game.
“We were getting fouled a lot in the first half, and [the referee] should have been called them. Then in the second half, for some reason, I think he tried to let it go. Maybe he felt bad that he called too many fouls, and once he started letting it go that’s when [the game] got out of hand.”
Still, it is more than arguable that the rules of college soccer also play their part. The combination of a hard, countdown clock coupled with a relaxed substitution system that affords coaches the ability to decrease the chance that a repeat offender will reach an ejection for multiple bookings can foster an atmosphere of time wasting and negative play.
Or, maybe it’s the ref’s fault.
“We won 1-0, so I’ll take it,” Somoano said. “We didn’t perform particularly well, and it was a physical game. Those are tough games to referee, and I think it didn’t help that, in my opinion, [the referee] lost a little bit of the focus. But we didn’t crack, we stayed very solid but we have a lot of things to work on.”
North Carolina (5-1-1, 2-0-1 ACC) returns to play on Tuesday, Sept. 25 when it hosts Wofford—kickoff is 7 p.m. at Fetzer Field. The Tar Heels travel to Durham to take on Duke next Friday, Sept. 28.
UNC (1-2) will try to bounce back from two straight losses as the Tar Heels host East Carolina (2-1) at Kenan Stadium in a 3:30 p.m. contest to be shown on ESPNU.
Both of the other Triangle teams will be solid favorites at home as they attempt to stay headed in the right direction. Duke (2-1) will take on Memphis (0-3) in the Blue Devils’ 6 p.m. homecoming game at Wallace Wade Stadium, while N.C. State (2-1) will take on resurgent FCS power The Citadel (3-0) at the same time at Carter-Finley Stadium.
N.C. Central (1-2) will be on the road, taking on Savannah State (0-2) at 7 p.m. in the MEAC opener for both at Wright Stadium.
And although the Durham Bulls had their worst season in six years and didn’t get anywhere near the game, there’s a great crowd of 8,601 in the house.
The Pawtucket Red Sox, Durham’s worst tormentors in the International League with a 36-27 record in the park, are the Governors’ Cup Champions taking on the Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League.
Manager of the Aces is Brett Butler, who was a member of the legendary 1980 Bulls who brought pro baseball back to the city after a seven-year absence. Oddly enough, his Bulls teammate Gerald Perry is the PawSox’ hitting coach.
Trevor Bauer, who was the No. 3 overall pick in last season’s draft from the Arizona Diamondbacks, will take on 38-year-old PawSox starter Nelson Figueroa.
The series is tied with each league having three wins apiece. Reno is the home team since the PCL won the Triple-A All-Star Game this year.
Reno scores early and often, banging out 13 hits in an easy 10-3 win.
We're heading into the final weekend of regular season NASL play, and all six playoff spots in the eight-team league have been claimed, with teams having either one or two games to play.
Last week, we conducted a thought experiment in which we recast this season under the schedule format that will take effect next year. In the interest of seeing it through to its completion, we have updated the Clausura schedule. But first, let's review the standings according to the official table, shown above.
Atlanta and Edmonton are the odd ones out. Sorry Eddies, sorry Silverbacks (Chiefs?).
The other six teams are safely in the playoffs, and all that's left to play for is home-field advantage and the first-round byes given to the top two finishers. The San Antonio Scorpions are assured of a first-round bye, but Tampa Bay has a shot at overtaking them for the regular season title. Tampa Bay, in second place, still needs to fend off Puerto Rico and Carolina to keep its first-round bye.
The Carolina RailHawks are nearly assured of home-field advantage in the first round (barring a hemorrhaging of goals that would allow Fort Lauderdale to overtake them on goal differential), and they can overtake Tampa Bay by claiming all six points in the teams' two meetings this week, in Tampa Wednesday and in Cary Saturday.
Minnesota? Well, they're happy to be in the playoffs. And surely they're not put out about being the sixth seed. After all, that humble seeding served them well last year.
Now, let's look at the updated Clausura:
As can be seen clearly, the Clausura title is now a two-team race, with Tampa Bay and Carolina level on 23 points with two games remaining against each other. Both teams have all to play for: a slot in the Soccer Bowl to play the Apertura-winners San Antonio. (Carolina needs to take four points from these games, though, because the Rowdies have a nine-goal edge in differential, which will be the first tie-breaker.)
The principal argument for having a generous playoff pool is to keep as many fans invested in the possibility of playoffs for as long as possible. There's no question that under the present system, six teams are preparing for the playoffs; on the other hand, the split-season format gives us just three teams that are banking on winning the NASL trophy.
Whether one is better than the other is for each person to decide. But it's clear that the new format will provide its own brand of late-season excitement. It just won't be as evenly distributed.