Sunday, September 25, 2011

Carolina falls to Minnesota, Wins NASL Regular Season Championship

Rob Kinnan Photography

With the regular season championship already secured, the Carolina Railhawks took the field against the Minnesota Stars in a match that only mattered in spirit to the Railhawks.

Unfortunately that mentality carried over to the field. Minnesota defeated the Railhawks by a score of 2-1 in Cary. A record crowd was on hand with 6,234 fans showing up to support Carolina. While many were disappointed with the loss, they were able to help the team celebrate receiving the 2011 Regular Season Championship trophy.

The game started off slowly. Neither team was particularly threatening in the opening minutes, however Minnesota began to apply pressure to Carolina and gained the majority of possession. Apart from a few half chances that forced Brad Knighton into some half-hearted saves, the first 45 minutes were empty of excitement.

The second half proved to be much livelier. In the 48th minute, Kupono Low put in a hard challenge that was called a foul in the box, surrendering a PK. Kyle Altman buried the shot and put Kyle Altman put Minnesota up by one.

Less than three minutes later, the Carolina Railhawks responded with a goal of their own.

Jonny Steele found Pablo Campos with a cheeky through-ball to beat a pair of Stars defenders. Pablo rounded the goalkeeper and passed the ball into the net to even the score. Campos’ goal ended a 370 minute scoreless streak for Carolina, who have been a far cry from their early season selves.

The flurry of goals did not end there though.

Minnesota’s Brian Cvilikas led a counterattack with a goal of his own only two minutes after the Campos goal. The score-line then read 2-1 in favor of the visitors. It was there that the score remained as Carolina finished the regular season with a four game losing streak.  

Still, despite the loss, Martin Rennie had a positive outlook. “I think once we won the regular season title, there’s an edge that has not quite been there… but I believe in these guys and believe they’re going to find it for the playoffs. There’s something about them that when they have to turn it on, they can do it.”

The team though remains a successful franchise who can look forward to the future.

Matt Watson, an unsung hero for Carolina
Rob Kinnan Photography

“I think it gives the organization something to build upon,” Martin Rennie said. “Sponsors and fans like to be part of a winning team and we’ve provided that. We could have run away with it by a lot more points. In the end, we didn’t manage to do that, but when you look back on it, we won a regular-season title.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Railhawks captain and mainstay Kupono Low. “It means a lot because you know we’ve come a long way since the first year [2007],” said Low. “It’s a very good feeling to win anything at any level. To win the championship and hold the trophy in front of a huge crowd…it’s a good feeling. It’s something I won’t forget.”

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