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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sure, the RailHawks are good, but let's talk about Portland

Posted by on Sat, Aug 15, 2009 at 3:43 PM

click to enlarge Luke Kreamalmeyer (in orange) battles Portland's David Hayes on June 11 at WakeMed. (photo by Rich Bostwick)
  • Luke Kreamalmeyer (in orange) battles Portland's David Hayes on June 11 at WakeMed. (photo by Rich Bostwick)

The USL-1 Carolina RailHawks are flying high on a league run of six victories in their last seven outings. The news only gets better as we see signs that midfielder Matt Watson—who hasn't really gotten uncorked this season—may be ready to return to the field.

They have a tough eight-day stretch ahead, with a Tuesday home game against Vancouver sandwiched between away matches in Vancouver tonight and Rochester next weekend. Still, they're keeping up with the blistering pace at the top of the table, matching Portland victory for victory.

(In a subject for another day, it's worth noting that the bottom of the table is a dungeon of futility. Austin and Cleveland are out of contention for the playoffs with 14 and 13 points, respectively, while Minnesota just picked up three points with just their fourth victory of the season, to bring them to 18 points, seven behind Miami. Compare this ineptitude to the points totals for the bottom four of last year's table: 37; 34; 34; 31. Carolina had 37 and missed the playoffs. Three guesses who had 31. Give up? Portland.)

Things are different in Portland this year, though. The first-place Timbers have only lost once at home in PGE Park, where attendance regularly approaches 10,000. Their opponent then was the MLS Seattle Sounders, in a US Open Cup third round game.

Someone at the USL office, or perhaps in Portland, took the time to study the astonishing performance of the RailHawks’ bête noire vert, who've not lost a game since their opener on the road against Vancouver (oddly, it took place two weeks after everyone else started their season). Their undefeated streak stands at 21, with a record of 12 wins, one loss and nine draws, for 45 points. The RailHawks, for their part have lost five games—including one to the Timbers—but they've won 13 and tied only three—including two to the Timbers.

Here are some RailHawks-related items from the examination of the Timbers' dominant season:

Anatomy of The Streak:

  • The club has recorded 10 shutouts; eight by Steve Cronin and two from former loanee Chris Seitz. There have been two three-game shutout streaks. [ED NOTE: Both Seitz shutouts were against the RailHawks]
  • No team has scored more than one goal in a game against Portland.
  • Portland has shut out Carolina (0-0, 2-0, 0-0) and Montreal (1-0, 4-0, 1-0) in all three matches as well as Vancouver in both (2-0, 1-0) since the loss.
  • The Timbers have only been shut out (scoreless draws) four times (Carolina twice, Cleveland and Puerto Rico).
  • Carolina goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell has shut out the Timbers twice.
  • Eight of the 11 wins have been in Portland and seven of the nine draws have been on the road. [ED NOTE: One of the road draws was against the RailHawks, in Portland's only visit to Cary.]

If the RailHawks and the Timbers maintain their present form, they'll be competing for first place and the bye in the first round of the playoffs. As the top two seeds, they would meet each other in the finals, scheduled for Oct. 10 and 17 (it's a two-legger).

Kickoff in Vancouver tonight is at 10 p.m. EDT.

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