Sunday, May 29, 2011

Railhawks Continue Dominance vs Atlanta

Rob Kinnan Photography
The Carolina Railhawks were looking to capitalize on the winless Atlanta Silverbacks when they came to Cary, NC.  They were also hoping to secure their fifth straight league victory. The Railhawks were coming off an impressive 3-0 win over second place Puerto Rico, a team they utterly dominated the week before.

Etienne Barbara looked to continue a stellar scoring streak in which he picked up 11 goals in 8 games. He was unsuccessful in this endeavor; however Barbara did pick up two assists late in the game and became the single most powerful offensive force in the North American Soccer League.  

There was certainly an excitement of soccer in the air. With the recent Carolina wins, the UEFA Champions League final earlier in the day or even the high school championships held at the park earlier in the day there was a buzz about the crowd. While not an exceptionally large crowd, the 3,015 fans in attendance did witness to some exciting moments.

Brad Knighton earned a second straight shutout and started it off with a fantastic save in the fifth minute to keep Atlanta from going up. The Silverbacks were spry in their attack the entire game, forcing the issue and attacking the Railhawks. Knighton was forced into action again in the 16th minute as he produced a nifty double save from two consecutive shots by Atlanta.

Knighton has been absolutely stellar for Carolina this year and it’s been extremely fun to watch. Jonny Steele also displayed some great vision throughout the game. The Carolina midfielder was constantly looking to find the forwards. Atlanta’s back line were sticking extremely tight to Barbara and Compos so the long pass added some diversity to break Atlanta down.

Rob Kinnan Photography
A Carolina goal was called back in the 43rd due to a handball in the box by Compos. There was some impressive combination play between Etienne Barbara and Pablo Compos.  The partnership continues to grow and develop.

Entering into the half, Carolina was obviously upset with their play. When asked what Rennie said to his team at halftime he stated “They knew themselves that it wasn’t good enough and that we had to improve what we were doing. We made some tactical adjustments to improve the battle in the midfield.”

Things started to get chippy in the 58th minute. A few tough fouls and some brutal challenges got the crowd and the players excited. After a long drought of wins, Atlanta was starting to show fatigue and frustration.

Rob Kinnan Photography
It wasn’t until the 81st minute was a gorgeous goal by Pablo Compos put into the net via a diving header. Who else could assist but Etienne Barbara?

The game opened up after that with the Railhawks making multiple breaks against the Atlanta goal. Railhawks kept a few more players back to protect Brad Knighton’s net. It was a good thing too. Atlanta pressed extremely hard late in the game. Knighton’s goal absolutely came under an assault. Carolina captain Brad Rusin could be seen working extremely hard to protect Knighton. Knighton comes up big in the 87th minute.
Barbara got on the board again in the 91st minute when he played the ball in to Allan Russell, who slammed it into the net to put the game out of reach for Atlanta.

The Railhawks will begin a long road trip now with nearly all of their June matches away from home. Martin Rennie looked towards the trip with this to say, “We’ve won every game in May. The away games coming up are tough games. We need to take a break tonight and for a couple days.” He continued with “The mood of the players will probably be that they could have done a little better tonight, and that’s what I like about these guys. They’re never satisfied and they look forward to every game.”


At this point, the fans look forward to every game as well. Carolina matches continue to be exciting and fun to watch. So much talent seems to be on this roster that fans know they’ll see something special.