The Carolina RailHawks head into their fifth season and the inaugural NASL campaign on Saturday at WakeMed Soccer Park with nine players returning from last season’s league runner-up and 13 new acquisitions.
“I think this is, potentially, the most talented group we’ve ever had,” said Martin Rennie, now in his third season at Carolina’s helm. “But we’ve got to prove that over the next few weeks and months. We’ve got some good attacking players and quality defenders and we’ve added to the squad that was already quite good. I’m excited about working with them for sure.”
Among the returning players is defender Brad Rusin, who will wear the captain’s armband this season, his third with the RailHawks. Defender Kupono Low, the only player remaining from Carolina’s first season in 2007, is back for his fifth season with the RailHawks.
Midfielder Matt Watson is back for his fourth season at WakeMed Soccer Park. Watson returned from a broken leg at the end of 2009 and enjoyed a stellar 2010 season, where he appeared in 37 matches, played 2,290 minutes and had two goals and two assists.
In addition to nine returning players, Carolina also welcomes back two players with previous stints at the club – goalkeeper Caleb Patterson and midfielder Jonny Steele.
Patterson appeared in 20 matches and logged 1,740 minutes for Carolina in 2009. He posted an 8-5-5 record with a 0.650 goal against average and 11 shutouts. Steele, on a season-long loan from FC Tampa Bay, was a member of the RailHawks’ inaugural squad in 2007, when he appeared in 26 matches, played 2,161 minutes and had five assists.
Among the new signings is goalkeeper Brad Knighton, defender John Krause, midfielder Stephen Glass and forwards Pablo Campos and Kithson Bain.
Knighton, a Hickory, N.C. native and UNC-Wilmington alumnus, comes to the RailHawks from the Philadelphia Union. Knighton appeared in eight matches for the expansion Union in 2010 and had two shutouts and a 1.10 goals against average.
Krause played in Vietnam and China in 2010 after three seasons with Puerto Rico. From 2007-09, Krause appeared in 73 matches and scored eight goals for the Islanders. He also helped Puerto Rico win the 2008 USL-1 Commissioner’s Cup and led them to back-to-back appearances in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Glass, a Scotsman, comes to the U.S. after playing 15 years in Scotland and England. He spent the last three seasons with Dunfermline Athletic in Scotland’s First Division. He’s also played for Aberdeen, Newcastle and Hibernian, and he was capped by the Scotland National Team in 1998.
Campos and Bain figure to form quite a strikeforce up top. Campos played the last two seasons in MLS with the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake. He appeared in 41 MLS matches and scored four goals, and he won the 2009 MLS Cup with Salt Lake.
Bain is a Grendadian international with 33 caps and 15 goals to his credit. He played the last two seasons in England, with Tranmere Rovers and Queens Park Rangers.
Rusin, Low, Knighton, Bain and the rest of the 2011 RailHawks begin the NASL regular season on Saturday at WakeMed Soccer Park, where they’ll face 2010 league champion Puerto Rico at 7 p.m.
“It’s been a long offseason and had its ups and downs, but now it’s all reality,” Rennie said. “There’s a game coming up. The team’s here. There’s plenty of interest from fans and I expect there will be a great crowd for the game.”
2011 Carolina RailHawks Roster
Position Name Last Club
GK Brad Knighton Philadelphia Union
GK Caleb Patterson Miami FC
GK Sean O’Connor San Fernando Valley Quakes
D John Krause Beijing Baxy (China)
D Brad Rusin UCLA
D Devon McKenney Real Maryland
D Kupono Low Virginia Beach Mariners
D Cory Miller Olivet Nazarene University
D Kyle Schmid UC Irvine
M Stephen Glass Dunfermline Athletic (Scotland)
M Brian Farber Portland Timbers (USSF D-2)
M Matt Watson Richmond Kickers (USL-2)
M Chris Nurse Puerto Rico Islanders
M Floyd Franks Blokhus (Denmark)
M Nick Thompson Messiah College
M Nick Zimmerman Philadelphia Union
M Cory Elenio Columbus Crew (MLS)
M Jonny Steele FC Tampa Bay (NASL)
F Etienne Barbara Hibernians (Malta)
F Allan Russell Kilmarnock (Scotland)
F Kithson Bain Queens Park Rangers (England)
F Pablo Campos Real Salt Lake