Speaking with Hamilton today after his first day of training camp in Cary, the 25-year-old Calgary, Alberta, native says his path to Carolina came to fruition rather suddenly.
“There had been talks the previous week with [RailHawks’ manager] Colin [Clarke] and my agent,” Hamilton says. “And then all of a sudden [Clarke] asked, ‘Hey, can you get down here? We’ll book you a flight.’ So I found out probably 5 o’clock Thursday night and was on a plane at 7 a.m. Friday morning.”
Hamilton played the last three years with NASL rival FC Edmonton, beginning with the club’s 2010 exhibition season. Since 2011, he appeared in 51 matches and scored two goals. “Hammy” led the Eddies last season with 2,024 minutes played and was named team MVP by the Edmonton Supporters Group. Moreover, he was selected to the 2012 NASL Best XI team by the league’s coaches.
However, Hamilton didn’t figure into the plans of new FC Edmonton manager Colin Miller, and after a protracted training camp saga, the club announced two weeks ago it would not offer Hamilton a contract for the 2013 campaign.
Hamilton recounts the limbo in which he found himself this preseason.
“It was tough,” Hamilton says. “I had good conversations with Colin [Miller] in November when there was a combine in Edmonton. So I thought I was in good standing coming into training camp. I was decently fit coming in. I was playing well, I thought. Obviously, there were at the time five center backs, so I knew there was going to be competition—with a new coach, everyone wants to prove themselves. [Miller] had brought some players in with him. But I thought I was in decent standing, [but] it’s just one of those things where coach comes in with players he wants to play with and sometimes you don’t fit the mold he wants to play with.”
Hamilton says Miller expressed concerns to Hamilton about his skill set. However, Hamilton believes he’s proven his ability to compete at this level of pro soccer.
“[Miller] thought my speed wasn’t good enough—that was probably the biggest thing he talked about,” Hamilton recalls. “I know that; my whole career I haven’t been the fastest player, but I tried to be better positionally.
“I like to think I tackle well, get stuck in, win a lot of headers. I’m not the most vocal player, but I like to lead by example rather than trying to boss people around and tell them what to do.”
The flaxen-haired, six-foot center back figures to receive plenty of opportunity at playing time for a beleaguered RailHawks’ back line that remains porous throughout this preseason.
“If I had to choose a place to go, one of my top ones was Carolina because of the facilities,” Hamilton says. “I’ve been training on turf for the last three years in Edmonton—it wears on your body. To come to a place like this and train on nice grass fields, the stadium has just been [expanded], and they’ve had a good history in this league.”
Hamilton also hopes to exorcise a couple of ignominious lowlights he suffered at WakeMed Soccer Park last season: a deft Nick Zimmerman goal scored past Hamilton on June 23 and a stoppage-time, game-winning goal by Ty Shipalane on August 18 scored after the speedy South African split three Eddies defenders, including Hamilton.
Hamilton’s new roommate in Carolina? Ty Shipalane.
“He’s reminded me of it a little bit,” Hamilton says with a wry smile.
The RailHawks begins their 2013 NASL regular season this Saturday against defending champion Tampa Bay Rowdies in St. Petersburg, Fla. Carolina opens their home schedule at WakeMed Soccer Park the following Saturday, April 13 against, ironically, FC Edmonton.