CARY, N.C. – The Carolina RailHawks lost 3-2 to visiting FC Edmonton at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday.
While trying to stay close in the race for the fourth spot in the North American Soccer League (NASL) combined standings, the RailHawks fell further behind in front of 4,666 in attendance.
Forward Zack Schilawski contributed both goals for Carolina, including a penalty kick conversion, but it was not enough as costly errors enabled the Eddies to stay close before cinching the win with a penalty kick of their own in injury time.
“Overall, bitterly disappointed with the result,” RailHawks head coach Colin Clarke said.
It was the second game in a row at home that a loss resulted for Carolina after giving up a lead and fighting back to even the score with the game still close enough to win, but eventually losing it by the time the final whistle was blown.
That’s how Carolina suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies a week earlier, and they couldn’t afford to give up another three points at home.
However, they did.
“First half we were completely in control,” Clarke continued.
“We weren’t good enough in their half, givin’ it away too many times. (We) didn’t have enough penetrating runs to get behind and into their back four. Come out second half – individual mistakes…Just a couple of things that went their way, but we weren’t good enough as far as stopping them and not letting them move ahead.”
Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute when a low Jordan Graye cross from right side of box was put towards Schilawski as he moved towards the corner of the goalkeeper’s crease.
The RailHawks’ leading scorer redirected the ball with a header that beat Edmonton keeper Lance Parker high and caromed off the underside of the crossbar before landing behind the goal line and settling in the net.
Carolina continued to put together more threatening sequences, but didn’t connect again, and carried its one-goal lead into the halftime break.
While Edmonton continued to work tirelessly to counter the RailHawks’ ball movement in the midfield, the Eddies couldn’t put together much that Carolina goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald couldn’t handle in his first Fall-Season start and return to the field since suffering a thumb injury during the Spring.
Though Edmonton went scoreless during the first 45 minutes of play, the adjustments that head coach Colin Miller made eventually paid dividends.
Miller adjusted his team’s shape late in the opening half to begin attacking the RailHawks back four, moving from a 4-4-1-1 to a 4-1-4-1 formation.
As the second half began, Edmonton transferred its aggressive play on defense towards its offense and quickly progressed towards Fitzgerald in repeated waves that kept his defense busier than during the opening half.
Carolina got its bearings back and applied equal pressure offensively and the back-and-forth play and pressure from both sides continued for the remainder of the game, generating 100 attacks between them.
Still trailing 1-0, the Eddies fought hard enough and evened the score by the 53rd minute of play.
Edmonton gained possession of the ball after forcing a turnover in the midfield and caught the RailHawks’ back line on its heels as play progressed into the box.
After a few blocked shot attempts on goal, Lance Laing managed to push the ball through Fitzgerald’s legs during the scramble and tied the game 1-1.
After substituting Daniel Jackson into the game, the RailHawks offense put together a sequence in the 59th minute that almost gave them the go-ahead goal they needed, but Danny Barerra’s ensuing shot attempt on the play was deflected past the goal line.
Five minutes later, Edmonton’s Ritchie Jones had enough time to line up a high volley that flew by Fitzgerald and gave the Eddies a 2-1 lead in the 64th minute.
Trailing again, Carolina got its opportunity to even the score when Schilawski was pulled down by Eddie Edward inside the top of the box and resulted in a penalty kick opportunity.
Schilawski made no mistake as he scored his second goal of the game by placing a low and hard kick that kept the ball from the outstretched arms of Parker, and evened the score 2-2 in the 75th minute of play.
“We showed a lot of character,” Clarke said.
“Kept our composure and got back into it.”
Both teams continued to pressure one another and aggressive marking on the ball by Carolina helped to create Edmonton turnovers, but also provided the openings in the midfield for the Eddies to use to counter with when they could – and they did.
Horace James beat Kupono Low at the bottom corner of the box and could have put the game away for Edmonton, but Fitzgerald made an aggressive lunge and stop that denied that opportunity in the 90th minute of play.
With five minutes of injury time added, neither team relented in trying to win the game.
The first to take advantage of a mistake that the other made would be the one who walked off the pitch as the victor.
That turned out to be Edmonton.
As extra time neared expiration, the game looked like it would end in a draw, but Carolina’s Austen King got his boot on James’ leg and the midfielder fell inside the box.
Awarded a penalty kick and the chance to win the game, Edmonton put Neil Hlavaty on the spot.
The deciding boot got by Fitzgerald, but not by much as he caught a piece of it before it entered the center of the goal.
Barely 30 seconds more passed before the final whistle sounded and gave the Eddies the 3-2 win and the RailHawks another loss at home.
“When we got down 2-1, I thought our response was pretty good,” Schilawski said.
“There was a lot of time in the game left. I felt like when we got back to 2-2, I thought we were gonna’ win. Lots of turnovers – everyone – myself included; lots of turnovers in bad spots and just kind of keep them in the game. If you turn it over in a bad spot and give them a chance, it gives them an opportunity to feel good about themselves. Those are the kind of plays we’ve just gotta’ eliminate.”
CAR: GK: Fitzgerald, D: Low, Au. King, Tobin, Graye; M: Davidson, Martinez (Jackson, 55th), Albadawi, Shipalane (Latigue, 90th), Barrera (Zimmerman, 65th); F: Schilawski
FCE: GK: Parker; D: Edward, Watson, Navarro, Moses; M: Nonni (James,69th), Raudales, Burt (Hlavaty, 71st), Jones, Laing, Ameobi (Jonke, 75th)
GOALS: CAR: Schilawski (12th , 75th); FCE: Laing (53rd); Jones (64th); Hlavaty (90+)
CAUTIONS: CAR: — ; FCE: Nonni (61st); Edwards (73rd);Navarro (76th)
EJECTIONS: CAR: — ; FCE: —