CARY, N.C. – Following the RailHawks’ season-opening defeat, coach Martin Rennie asked that judgments on the team be held for a few more weeks while the team continued to come together.
After Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Edmonton – the RailHawks’ second straight – it’s clear the team is progressing nicely.
“You can see it,” said midfielder Nick Zimmerman, whose 76th-minute goal sealed Wednesday’s win. “There’s plays and sequences we’re training and practicing, and you can start to see there’s a flow now and it’s starting to get exciting and we’re getting results.”
Among the reasons for excitement Wednesday was the RailHawks’ defensive performance. Edmonton had 14 shots, but none of them were on goal and Carolina goalkeeper Brad Knighton was not required to make a save in order to earn his first shutout of the season.
Edmonton’s only real chance came in the fourth minute, when forward Conrad Smith got behind the defense and rifled a shot from 14 yards out. But his try went inches wide of the far post.
“Going into this game, we wanted a clean sheet,” said defender John Krause. “The first two games we played well defensively. The only goals we allowed were on set plays. We said we’d be better on set plays today and we really wanted to keep a clean sheet. So we’re happy with that.”
Another reason to optimisim has been the play of forward Etienne Barbara. The Maltese forward scored his league-leading third goal of the NASL season Wednesday night. He now has goals in three straight games – just the second RailHawk ever to accomplish that feat.
To Barbara, that’s no big deal. He did have three goals through three games in 2010, too.
“Three goals in three games – I’m here to score goals,” Barbara said. “I’m a striker. I’m always hungry for goals. I always want more. I’m happy, but I wish I scored a couple more.”
That’s a sentiment shared throughout the team. While the RailHawks ended the night with two tallies, they could have doubled that total had they pulled the trigger a second earlier, been a bit more focused or bit quicker to the ball than Edmonton goalkeeper Rein Baart. Baart finished with just two saves, but he won a number of 50-50 balls into space and broke up breakaway chances before a shot was taken. In the end, Carolina had 14 shots, with six on goal.
“Ultimately, putting the ball in the net is the hardest part,” Rennie said. “That’s why the best strikers get paid the best money, and that’s why they’re in such high demand. Sometimes it’s just getting confidence. Once you start scoring a couple goals, you start scoring more goals. Sometimes, it’s a case of focusing just a bit more in the last seconds. Chances do get missed. Tonight we did score two, and that was enough to win the game, thankfully.”
Barbara opened the scoring in the 19th minute. Kupono Low hit a low shot that Baart stopped. But he gave up a rebound, and Barbara was on the backpost waiting to tuck in the chance.
The RailHawks had several more strong chances in the first half, with Barbara and Pablo Campos spearheading the counterattack. Campos had a pair of breakaways minutes apart around the 30-minute mark that Baart turned away.
In the 76th minute, Baart overextended himself trying to get to a ball outside of his area. Cory Elenio played a ball over the top to Allan Russell. With Russell closing in, Baart raced out 25 yards off his line and headed the ball away. But it went right to Zimmerman, who coolly collected it and calmly placed a shot into the back of the net from 35 yards out.
“I looked up and I saw it,” Zimmerman said. “I had a little bit of room. Coach had given us a great scouting report that [said] sometimes the keeper will come out. If you have a chance, look up. Allan pressured him, so credit to him. He created the whole situation and I was lucky enough to put it in.”
While the season is still in its infancy, it's hard not to get excited about what's in store for the 2011 edition of the RailHawks.
“I think every game we’ve played, we’ve shown we’re a good team,” Krause said. “I don’t think there’s a team in this league we need to worry about. We need to worry about what we do. If we play to our potential, I think we’re going to be a pretty scary team in this league.”
CAROLINA 2, EDMONTON 0
EDM: GK Rein Baart, D Alex Suprenant (Andre Duberry, 75th), D Paul Hamilton, D Dominic Oppong, D Antonio Rago (Kyle Yamada, 79th), M Shaun Saiko, M Chris Kooy, M Sam Lam, F Chris Lemire, F Conrad Smith, F Daniel Antoniuk
CAR: GK Brad Knighton, D Kupono Low, D John Krause, D Brad Rusin, D Devon McKenney, M Floyd Franks, M Brian Farber (Cory Elenio, 49th), M Matt Watson, M Nick Zimmerman, F Pablo Campos (Jonny Steele, 68th) F Etienne Barbara (Allan Russell, 74th)
CAR: Etienne Barbara, 19th
CAR: Nick Zimmerman, 76th
EDM: Daniel Antoniuk, 18th; Sam Lam, 28th; Alex Surprenant 60th; Chris Lemire, 90th
CAR: John Krause, 26th; Floyd Franks, 73rd
|Rowdies Win Puts Pressure On Defeated RailHawks|
|San Antonio Scorpions 3 Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1|
|Atlanta Silverbacks 2 Carolina RailHawks 0|
|Minnesota United 2 Tampa Bay Rowdies 3|
|Scorpions Hold Halftime Lead Over Strikers|
|Silverbacks Have Edge Over RailHawks At Halftime|
|Match Preview: San Antonio vs. Fort Lauderdale|
|Match Preview: Atlanta vs. Carolina|
|Rowdies Steal Halftime Lead Over United|
|Match Preview: Minnesota vs. Tampa Bay|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||6||3||2||1||3||11|
|Minnesota United FC||6||2||2||2||1||8|
|San Antonio Scorpions||6||1||2||3||-4||5|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||6||1||1||4||-6||4|