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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Carolina RailHawks exercise contract options on six players, decline on five others

Posted by on Tue, Dec 2, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Tiyi Shipalane - COURTESY OF CAROLINA RAILHAWKS
  • courtesy of Carolina RailHawks
  • Tiyi Shipalane
The Carolina RailHawks announced today that it has exercised contract options on six players for the 2015 North American Soccer League (NASL) season.

The club picked up the options of midfielders Leo Osaki, Nazmi Albadawi and Tiyi Shipalane, defenders Daniel Scott and Connor Tobin, and forward Daniel Jackson. They will join striker Nacho Novo, who is already under contract with the RailHawks for 2015.

Chief among the contract optionees is Shipalane, who will return to Carolina for his fifth season. The speedy South African playmaker has 19 goals in 91 appearances for his RailHawks’ career. In 2014, he scored five goals and assisted on four others, highlighted by this NASL Goal of the Year nominee.

In his first season with the RailHawks, Albadawi, a former N.C. State standout, scored four goals and displayed versatility in oscillating from the holding and attacking midfielder positions. Albadawi and Osaki, both 23 years old, were nominated for the NASL’s Young Player of the Year award.

“Being able to bring back a core group of the players is an important piece for our plans in 2015,” RailHawks manager Colin Clarke said in a statement. “This is the first of many moves as we build a championship roster for next season.”

The RailHawks also announced that it is declining to exercise options on five other players: defenders Jordan Burt and Uriah Bentick, midfielders Gabe Latigue and Danny Barrera, and forward Aaron King.

Clarke indicated that the club is negotiating new deals with several unspecified players either out of contract or whose contract options were declined. The notable RailHawks believed to be currently out-of-contract include team captain Jun Marques Davidson, the venerable Kupono Low and sibling midfielders Enzo and Alex Martinez.

The 2015 fates of midfielders Austin da Luz and Nick Zimmerman, defenders Jordan Graye and Austen King, and goalkeeper Scott Goodwin also remain undetermined.
  • Pin It
    Tiyi Shipalane will return to Carolina for his fifth season.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Colin Clarke returns as head coach of Carolina RailHawks

Posted by on Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 2:52 PM

RailHawks manager Colin Clarke - ROB KINNAN / COURTESY OF CAROLINA RAILHAWKS
  • Rob Kinnan / Courtesy of Carolina RailHawks
  • RailHawks manager Colin Clarke
The Carolina RailHawks announced today that the club has agreed to terms with head coach Colin Clarke for the 52-year-old Ulsterman to remain manager of the Cary-based soccer team.

Clarke’s new contract is described as a “multi-year deal,” although no further details were disclosed by the club. Clarke coached the 2014 season in the final year of his original three-year contract with Carolina. This is new deal will make Clarke the longest tenure coach in RailHawks franchise history.

Clarke took charge of Carolina in 2012 after a five-season stint as manager of the Puerto Rico Islanders, where he won the 2010 USSF D2 Pro League title. In three seasons as the RailHawks’ gaffer, Clarke has an combined regular season record of 33 wins, 22 draw and 26 losses. Of the seven members of the North American Soccer League (NASL) competing in each of the last three regular seasons, only the San Antonio Scorpions (43) and Minnesota United FC (41.1) averaged more points per year than the RailHawks (40.3). Carolina finished with the best overall record over the 2013 NASL regular season.

Moreover, in each of Clarke’s three seasons in Carolina, the team has made impressive runs in the annual Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, advancing to the Cup’s quarterfinal round in 2013 and 2014. Indeed, the RailHawks have defeated Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy in Open Cup competition for three consecutive years.

However, the one piece of hardware still eluding Clarke in Carolina is the one he vowed to attain when he first arrived: a league championship.

“I am very happy to be coming back to the RailHawks,” Clarke said in a statement. “I want to thank our owner Traffic Sports USA and team President Curt Johnson for the faith they showed in me and the opportunity they are giving me to continue the work we started in 2011. I am looking forward to the opportunity to further build the franchise and the brand. We’ve had a lot of success over the last three years, but our ultimate goal of winning The Championship has eluded us. I assure our great supporters that my staff and I will do everything possible to bring a championship back to the Triangle.”
  • Pin It
    Clarke’s new contract is described as a “multi-year deal."

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

The night the lights went out in Cary: Carolina RailHawks tie Minnesota United 2-2 to conclude 2014 NASL season

Posted by on Sun, Nov 2, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Navo Nacho (center) celebrates his first-half goal during the Carolina RailHawks 2-2 draw with Minnesota United FC Saturday night in Cary, NC. - ROB KINNAN / CAROLINA RAILHAWKS
  • Rob Kinnan / Carolina RailHawks
  • Navo Nacho (center) celebrates his first-half goal during the Carolina RailHawks 2-2 draw with Minnesota United FC Saturday night in Cary, NC.
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—Just as the Carolina RailHawks and Minnesota United FC were set to kick off the second half of last night’s match in Cary, a power surge doused the floodlights at WakeMed Soccer Park, momentarily enveloping the main stadium in total darkness.

It proved a jackhammer-subtle metaphor for what would unfold in two different soccer matches over the ensuing hour, culminating with the RailHawks’ 2-2 draw with Minnesota United and the end of Carolina’s 2014 season. The party was over … turn out the lights.

The RailHawks knew that Saturday was their final home game of 2014. The lone remaining question was whether Carolina would earn the opportunity to hit the road for the NASL postseason tournament, named The Championship (goodbye "Soccer Bowl," we hardly knew ye). The RailHawks and Fort Lauderdale Strikers were vying for the fourth and final postseason berth, which begins next weekend. The Strikers held a two-point lead over Carolina in the league standings, plus a four goal differential advantage (the first tiebreaker). Practically speaking, the RailHawks hopes rested almost entirely on defeating league-leading Minnesota United plus needing the Strikers to lose at home to the Ottawa Fury, mired near the bottom of the league table.

And for a while, that final, improbable twist in Carolina’s season that manager Colin Clarke wished for for two weeks ago appeared poised to occur. Thanks to the miracle of Twitter, we're left with a the timeline of the evening that juxtaposes one team's ecstasy against another team's agony.

Continue reading…

  • Pin It
    "Our season is over and we’re going to have to watch from afar as someone else wins a championship, and that’s hard to take.”

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Subtraction by addition: Carolina RailHawks draw 1-1 with Fort Lauderdale, but lose ground in playoff race

Posted by on Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 2:19 AM

Nacho Novo (left) battles with the Fort Lauderdale's Shawn Chin during the Carolina RailHawks' 1-1 draw with the Strikers Saturday evening at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. - PHOTO BY ROB KINNAN / COURTESY OF CAROLINA RAILHAWK
  • Photo by Rob Kinnan / Courtesy of Carolina RailHawk
  • Nacho Novo (left) battles with the Fort Lauderdale's Shawn Chin during the Carolina RailHawks' 1-1 draw with the Strikers Saturday evening at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC.
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—Throughout the 2014 regular season (heck, even last year, too), the Carolina RailHawks have displayed an uncanny ability to play counter to their given situation.

Anytime the RailHawks appear on the verge of falling out of a possible berth in the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament, the team will reel off two or three unexpected victories to again grab the reins of their destiny. Then, just as promptly, Carolina will squander their reacquired fortunes, placing themselves back on the precipice of heartbreak.

The fickle foot of fate once again dealt a blow to the RailHawks Saturday night with their 1-1 draw with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. A Carolina win on home ground at WakeMed Soccer Park would have catapulted it back into fourth place in the overall NASL standings with only two games left in the regular season.

Instead, Saturday’s tie keeps the RailHawks two points behind the Strikers and tied with FC Edmonton for the fifth position. Moreover, Carolina will likely lose any tiebreaker since it trails both Fort Lauderdale and FC Edmonton substantially in goal differential.

It’s an outcome RailHawks manager Colin Clarke and his team were acutely aware of approaching Saturday’s match with Fort Lauderdale, which already defeated Carolina 1-0 two weeks ago in South Florida.

“Overall, it was disappointing,” Clarke said about this weekend’s draw. “Before this night started, we had it in our control to succeed in what our goal was at the start of the season, which is get into the playoffs and have a chance to win a championship. It’s not over, but it’s now out of our control.”

Continue reading…

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Heavy Traffic: Carolina RailHawks in flux following sale of Fort Lauderdale Strikers

Posted by on Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Aaron Davidson, President of Traffic Sports USA, and Swoops, the Carolina RailHawks' mascot (l-r) ... now closer than ever.
  • Aaron Davidson, President of Traffic Sports USA, and Swoops, the Carolina RailHawks' mascot (l-r) ... now closer than ever.
When the Fort Lauderdale Strikers announced last week that Traffic Sports USA was selling controlling interest in the North American Soccer League (NASL) club to a Brazilian investment group, chatter ensued about the effect this would have on various soccer entities. But besides the Strikers themselves, the group most affected by this sale is the Carolina RailHawks.

Carolina is now the last NASL team owned by Traffic Sports USA, the American arm of the Brazil-based sports management company that not only bankrolled a large portion of the NASL after its breakaway from the United Soccer Leagues (USL), but also once held controlling interest in three members clubs—the RailHawks, Strikers and Atlanta Silverbacks.

Traffic Sports USA reformed the RailHawks brand and assumed majority interest of the team after former owner Selby Wellman dissolved the club’s governing limited liability company in Dec. 2010. Since the RailHawks’ reformation under the Traffic Sports USA umbrella and the arrival of club president Curt Johnson, Carolina has enjoyed a resurgence on and off the field. Attendance has risen annually (although stagnant this year compared to 2013), and Carolina continues to post winning records and success in U.S. Open Cup competition.

Nevertheless, the RailHawks’ overall team budget and player payroll languishes in the bottom half of the league. Local fans have largely overlooked this inequity due to the RailHawks’ on-field success, but also because supporters remain grateful for Traffic’s rescue of the RailHawks franchise and realize that Traffic’s resources have been spread over several NASL teams and the league itself.

Now, however, Traffic’s lone majority interest in the RailHawks means those fans will contrast team expenditures to spendthrift owners in New York, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, San Antonio and now Fort Lauderdale. It’s a new reality Traffic Sports USA and the RailHawks are also cognizant of—last Friday, the same date the Strikers sale was officially announced, the RailHawks published a press release in which Aaron Davidson, President of Traffic Sports USA, is quoted as saying Traffic Sport USA is now “thrilled to focus our time, energy and resources on professional soccer in North Carolina.”

Davidson, who is also Chairman of the NASL Board of Governors, spoke further to INDY Week by telephone last Sunday evening. He says Traffic Sports USA is pleased that Carolina is now their sole NASL stake.

Continue reading…

  • Pin It
    “It doesn’t mean we’re going to be the highest spending team in the entire league. It means we’re going to be the smartest spenders.”

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Back Nine: Carolina RailHawks outlast New York Cosmos in 5-4 thriller

Posted by on Sun, Sep 21, 2014 at 1:49 AM

Devon Sandoval holds up the ball and holds off his New York Cosmos defender during the Carolina RailHawks 5-4 win Saturday evening in Cary, NC. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAROLINA RAILHAWKS
  • Photo courtesy of Carolina RailHawks
  • Devon Sandoval holds up the ball and holds off his New York Cosmos defender during the Carolina RailHawks 5-4 win Saturday evening in Cary, NC.
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—When a time capsule is planted under the center circle of WakeMed Soccer Park to inform, a millennia hence, our planet of ape overlords or extraterrestrial invaders about the history of the Carolina RailHawks Football Club, the first artifact included must be a recording of the RailHawks’ 5-4 victory over the New York Cosmos Saturday evening in Cary, NC.

The game encapsulates every variance of RailHawks teams through the years. First, there was a stultifying lack of scoring, aided by sound defending, ineffective finishing, tentative possession and lots of long balls forward. After halftime was the blazing offensive onslaught, full of speed, space and shots resulting five goals over a 30-minute span. Finally, there was eye-poppingly poor late game defending, practically gifting the opponent back into a game to the tune of four goals (including an own goal) allowed over a 20-minute stretch.

That’s right—a combined nine goals scored in the second half between full-strength squads. Toss in autumnal weather, free thundersticks for the kids and postgame fireworks for the 5,593 in attendance, and, well, you’ve got a quintessential American pro soccer game.

Continue reading…

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Something old, new and borrowed: Carolina RailHawks kick home blues with 3-1 win over San Antonio Scorpions

Posted by on Sun, Sep 14, 2014 at 12:52 AM

Enzo Martinez puts a licking on the San Antonio Scorpions during the Carolina RailHawks 3-1 win Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAROLINA RAILHAWKS
  • Photo courtesy of Carolina RailHawks
  • Enzo Martinez puts a licking on the San Antonio Scorpions during the Carolina RailHawks 3-1 win Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—Facing the prospect of the first four-match home losing streak in club history, it was all boots on deck for the Carolina RailHawks. The long-awaited arrival of Nacho Novo—check. The short-term loan acquisition of a Major League Soccer striker in Devon Sandoval from Real Salt Lake—check. Prying Zack Schilawski away from his law school studies for a few hours—check.

Indeed, all three players saw action against the NASL-leading San Antonio Scorpions Saturday evening at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. However, it was a different trio of RailHawks who scaled the scoring column to pace Carolina to a pivotal 3-1 victory over the Scorpions.

“It was a great results,” said RailHawks manager Colin Clarke. “We’ve had our troubles at home the last few games, But if we’re going to be successful this season we have to win our home games. I thought it was a great response tonight under a little bit of pressure.”

On cue, one of Carolina’s new additions sounded a new attacking tone less than a minute into the match. Out of the opening kickoff, a through ball was played forward to Sandoval, who started as the center striker. Sandoval blazed a trail through the Scorpions’ back line and delivered a cross through the box that ended up far post at the feet of Ty Shipalane. Shipalane’s shot impacted the side netting. However, Sandoval’s instant threat signaled a confidence that the RailHawks have been sorely lacking throughout the NASL fall campaign.

Continue reading…

  • Pin It
    The RailHawks basked in a result described using a word that hasn’t been heard much following the team’s recent home results: Fun.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Nacho Novo, Glasgow Rangers legend, signs with Carolina RailHawks

Posted by on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Nacho Novo poses with his new Carolina RailHawks jersey Thursday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. - NEIL MORRIS
  • Neil Morris
  • Nacho Novo poses with his new Carolina RailHawks jersey Thursday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC.
The Carolina RailHawks’ long-gestating rumor is now official: Nacho Novo, the lauded Spanish striker who spent seven seasons with Glasgow Rangers of the Scottish Premier League, has signed with the RailHawks of the North American Soccer League (NASL).

The 35-year-old Novo, who last played this spring for Carlisle United in England’s League One, traveled to North Carolina in June to trial with the RailHawks and also took in a few of the club’s matches.

Novo and the club agreed to contractual terms several weeks later. However, immigration entanglements delayed Novo joining the team until this week.

After arriving in North Carolina late Wednesday evening, a jet lagged Novo trained with his new teammates Thursday morning after passing a team physical. Afterwards, he spoke with INDY Week about what brought him to Cary, NC.

“The advantage I had was I came over here and saw the facilities and the city, and I felt relaxed,” Novo says. “The main thing for me is to feel relaxed and settled, where I come every day and enjoy training. At my age, I still enjoy football like when I was 12 years of age.”

Novo says the longest time he's previously spent in the United States was a month-long vacation in Orlando, Fla. Now, his contract with the RailHawks extends through the 2015 season.

Novo is arguably the most pedigreed player to ever join the RailHawks. During his time with Rangers from 2004-10, Novo scored 47 league goals, 25 of those in his first season with the club. During that initial season, Rangers won both the Scottish League Cup and Scottish Premier League, with Novo scoring the winning goal against Hibernian to clinch league title.

Continue reading…

  • Pin It
    Novo is a member of the Rangers Hall of Fame and played on the team that advanced to the 2008 UEFA Cup Final.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Train wrecked: Atlanta Silverbacks defeat anemic Carolina RailHawks 2-0 for third straight home loss

Posted by on Sun, Aug 31, 2014 at 9:24 AM

Atlanta's Ryan Roushandel and Carolina's Nick Zimmerman battle for a header while RailHawks Connor Tobin, Akira Fitzgerald and Kupono Low look on during the Silverbacks' 2-0 win over the RailHawks. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAROLINA RAILHAWKS
  • Photo courtesy of Carolina RailHawks
  • Atlanta's Ryan Roushandel and Carolina's Nick Zimmerman battle for a header while RailHawks Connor Tobin, Akira Fitzgerald and Kupono Low look on during the Silverbacks' 2-0 win over the RailHawks.

WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—Colin Clarke said he didn’t recall a more lackluster home performance in his three seasons as manager of the Carolina RailHawks than their 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Silverbacks Saturday evening at WakeMed Soccer Park.

There are few, if any, who would disagree.

After earning their second straight road victory last week at Tampa Bay, the RailHawks were hoping to notch three points at home and solidify their fourth-place position in the North American Soccer League (NASL) yearly standings, good for the final berth in the year-end NASL Championship playoffs. Instead, the loss to Atlanta drops Carolina to sixth place in the overall table.

“This was a big game tonight,” Clarke said. “We talked a lot about it, we prepared for it and knew what we had to do. And we came up short on the night.”

Continue reading…

  • Pin It
    The win was the Silverbacks' first over the RailHawks in 11 visits to Cary, NC dating back to 2007.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Penalty-palooza: Carolina RailHawks clipped 3-2 by FC Edmonton for third home loss in fall season

Posted by on Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 2:34 AM

Zack Schilawski celebrates his second RailHawks goal against FC Edmonton Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAROLINA RAILHAWKS
  • Photo courtesy of Carolina RailHawks
  • Zack Schilawski celebrates his second RailHawks goal against FC Edmonton Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—For the second straight week, the Carolina RailHawks fell behind to an opponent at WakeMed Soccer Park. For the second straight week, the RailHawks and Zack Schilawski, the team’s leading scorer, clawed back to tie the match in the second half and appeared poised to grab a win. And for the second straight week, the RailHawks ended up losing the match anyway.

After grabbing an early lead that lasted through halftime, the RailHawks surrendered three second-half goals on their way to a 3-2 loss to FC Edmonton in front of 4,666 fans. The defeat is Carolina’s third in their last four home league games. The road win is only FC Edmonton’s second this year, the other one being at cellar-dwelling Indy Eleven during the NASL spring season. And this is FC Edmonton’s first win on the RailHawks’ home ground, having lost each of their previous six visits to Cary.

After surrendering four goals to the Tampa Bay Rowdies last week at home, the RailHawks returned goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald to the starting XI. Coincidentally, Fitzgerald hasn't played since Carolina’s 6-1 loss at FC Edmonton to end the spring season. Fitzgerald then injured his thumb in training and was replaced by Scott Goodwin during the RailHawks’ U.S. Open Cup run and the opening five games of the fall season.

However, Carolina was without defender Daniel Scott, who was suspended due to being sent off last week against Tampa Bay. Scott was replaced by Austen King, who hasn't played since committing his own red card offense against Indy Eleven last month. More on King in a moment.

Continue reading…

  • Pin It
    Zack Schilawski's brace isn't enough to overcome three second-half goals by FC Edmonton

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