Clarke Returns To RailHawks To 'Continue The Work We’ve Started Here'

As the winningest head coach in the NASL Modern Era, Colin Clarke remains with the RailHawks and believes a championship is a year or two away.
Dec 3, 2014

Colin Clarke knows about winning games in the North American Soccer League (NASL) Modern Era. He is currently the winningest coach, amassing a record of 48W-29D-32L with the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Carolina RailHawks.

He’s also one of two head coaches - Minnesota’s Manny Lagos is the other - to still be at the helm of a club since 2011 when the league began play.

Recently agreeing to a multi-year contract extension, Clarke is ready to build off his past success.

"I’m thankful to the organization, to Traffic Sports and thankful to continue the work we’ve started here. We’ve done a lot of good stuff over the last three years, obviously we haven’t won the championship, but that’s our ultimate goal," Clarke told

Under Clarke’s guidance the RailHawks have been one of the NASL’s best sides when at home, turning WakeMed Soccer Park into nothing short of a fortress.

Despite the club losing two long-standing streaks recently - 23-game unbeaten streak snapped by FC Dallas in the U.S Open Cup and an 18-game home league win streak by Indy Eleven - traveling to Cary, N.C. has become an unenviable task.

 "It’s a tough place to play. It’s a big field, beautiful field [and] the best surface in the country. We had a great run going 20-plus games at home unbeaten and most of them wins as well. It’s a never-say-die attitude. Our supporters get rowdy, they get into the game and we’re looking to start another of those runs next year," Clarke said.  

"It’s important that we win our home games and I don’t think people appreciated it at the time to be unbeaten for 23 games at home. It wasn’t easy, but it was a great run and full credit to the players."

During that stretch run, the RailHawks felt they couldn’t be beaten - no matter the opponent.

"We definitely had that mentality during the run. A lot teams coming knew they were going to get beat. Mentally, they were beaten before they got here. They knew it was going to be tough."

"Most of those games you score first and you control the game [and] the tempo. When we’re at our best - moving and passing - and we’re one-nil up it’s very hard for a team to get back into the game."

While Clarke has the most regular season wins to date aided by the home win streak running for the better part of three seasons, the RailHawks have yet to claim the Soccer Bowl Trophy.

The club finished in fifth and two points behind the Fort Lauderdale Strikers for the fourth and final place in The Championship this past year. Clarke was closest to guiding his side to a final when the RailHawks reached the semifinal in 2012.

He now aims to add a title victory to his resume and believes it could come sooner rather than later.

"I think we’ll win the championship in the next year or two. We’re getting closer and that’s what we want to do," Clarke said.

"[Our expectations are] always to win a championship. We were disappointed not to get in the final four last year and we only had ourselves to blame and we’re looking to put that right next year."

Over the course of Clarke’s tenure, the NASL has developed a much different look than when he started. The four-team postseason format that debuted in 2014 is just one of many examples.

"I think the league has become a much better league [and] a much more stable league than it used to be," he said.

"The standard has risen. We’re a lot closer to MLS (Major League Soccer). We prove that every year in the Open Cup. We’ve been very successful against the likes of the [Los Angeles] Galaxy, who are now playing in the MLS Cup final."

The RailHawks though, will remain unchanged in their philosophy, as they will continue to do what they do best: building a team with local flavor.

"Continuity is very important, particularly for us, as we put a lot of stock in a plan to give local players an opportunity and a chance to play for their local team and give them somewhere to play when they come out of college," Clarke said.

"It is about winning a championship and being successful, but it’s also about developing players and making them better and that’s the fun part of the job."


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