RailHawks reshape roster for upcoming NASL season

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

CARY, N.C. – The Carolina RailHawks continued to reload their roster with the re-signing of ninth-year defender Kupono Low ahead of the 2015 North American Soccer League (NASL) season.

The announcement made on Thursday came a day following the signing of English midfielder Mark Anderson.

“Kupono has been here since the start”, RailHawks head coach Colin Clarke said.

“He is that one player that everybody in this area knows. I’m glad he is back for another year. He is good from a standpoint of helping with the young kids and that is important to us, he also brings that continuity with someone who has been here for a long time. The players we have signed this year have a little more leadership and experience, we want to win a championship and Kupono is a big part of that”.

Affectionately known by the fans as ‘Mr. RailHawk’, Low rejoins the team having previously spent eight seasons as an integral player within the defense, and currently holds the all-time record of most appearances with the club at 220.

Added to Low’s experience was that of midfielder Anderson who joins the team after three years with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers

“We are very happy to add Mark to our roster,” Clarke said.

“Since joining the league in 2012 he has proven his abilities. Every time we played against the Strikers we knew he was a player to watch and now we are happy to have him on our side. I am sure that with him and the other additions to our roster we will be a step closer to bringing a championship to the Triangle.”

Anderson joins the RailHawks after playing for three successful seasons with the Strikers with whom he scored 19 goals in 65 games and clocked nearly 5,000 minutes.

In 2012, he was named to NASL Best XI team.

The Durham, England native played college soccer for Barry University, winning 2011 National Player of the Year honors and 2011 Capital One Academy All-America of the year of Division II men’s soccer. Anderson also represented Great Britain at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China, scoring two goals and leading his country to the finals, where they earned the silver medal.

“It’s a great honor to put pen to paper on a deal for the RailHawks. They have shown a lot of interest in me and is always nice to know you’re wanted,” said Mark Anderson. “I scored my first professional goal at WakeMed Soccer Park and I hope that I can help bring a lot of success to the RailHawks.”

Low and Anderson add to the list of recent RailHawks signings and includes them on a roster that currently consists of 13 new and returning players: goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap, defenders Connor Tobin, Daniel Scott and Austen King, midfielders Nazmi Albadawi, Tiyi Shipalane and Leo Osaki, Neil Hlavaty, and forwards Nacho Novo, Daniel Jackson and Simone Bracalello.

A quick look at the RailHawks’ recent signings in January:

Hunter Gilstrap

An experienced goalkeeper, the 31-year old Gilstrap most recently played for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds where he won the 2010 USL-2 Goalkeeper of the Year Award.

Gilstrap started his professional career in 2006 with Miami FC (now the Fort Lauderdale Strikers).

After one season in Miami, he joined the Cleveland City Stars where he played under former RailHawks head coach Martin Rennie.

In 2010, he joined the Riverhounds, where he spent the next five seasons before signing with Carolina.

Neil Hlavaty

Hlavaty, a six-foot-one-inch midfielder signed with the team on Jan. 9 as a five-year NASL veteran.

He spent the last two seasons playing for FC Edmonton, and appeared in 51 NASL matches, logged 4,140-plus minutes, and scored five goals.

Prior to transferring to FC Edmonton, Hlavaty enjoyed a stellar three-year stint in Minnesota where he was an integral member of the team that won the 2011 NASL Soccer Bowl and finished in second place in 2012.

Austen King

The RailHawks announced the re-signing of the former RailHawks U-23 player on Jan. 7.

The Wilson, N.C. native originally joined the RailHawks first team ahead of the 2012 season, and has amassed 3,329 minutes in over 40 appearances, and scored 2 goals.

King was part of the RailHawks U-23’s that won the USASA Men’s U-23 Region III and National Championship in 2011.

“We are very proud of Austen’s development over the last three seasons,” Clarke said.

“He has played a key role in our team and is a fan favorite. We are very happy to have him back. Along with Conor Tobin and Daniel Scott, Austen will be called upon to play a very important role in our backline this coming year.”

Simone Bracalello

The Italian forward signed with the RailHawks after five seasons in Minnesota, and was the team’s first new signee back on Jan. 6.

The Genoa, Italy native comes to the RailHawks after appearing in over 117 matches, logging 6,461-plus minutes, and scoring 29 goals.

Along with Hlavaty, he was an integral member of Minnesota’s 2011 championship and 2012 finalist teams.

“He is a player that brings a wealth of experience in the NASL,” Clarke said of Bracalello.

“I’ve been following him through the years and I know he is capable of scoring goals and creating chances for our team and we couldn’t be more excited to add him to our roster.”

The RailHawks will open the 2015 season at home when they kick off against the Ottawa Fury at WakeMed Soccer Park on Sat. Apr. 4.