CARY, N.C. – There was a lot going on at WakeMed Soccer Park on Tuesday when the Carolina RailHawks and West Ham United ended their first-ever meeting with a 2-2 draw in front of a sellout crowd of 10,125.
The RailHawks made the most of the occasion as the matchup was the first in the Triangle to feature an English Premier League (EPL) side,
The organization provided its fans with a pregame flyover, a halftime introduction to new signee in Mexican Star Omar Bravo, and a fireworks display to cap it all off.
Even a 40-minute rain/lightning delay didn’t dampen the spirit and enthusiasm witnessed throughout the stadium complex.
“It was a good game – a friendly with a high intensity,” West Ham manager Slaven Bilic said afterwards.
“It was a good atmosphere and we enjoyed it. It was a good test. It is still early for us, of course. The legs are heavy for the players. These tests are more individual tests because the team that played in the first half have hardly played together all at the same time. It was a really good individual test.”
Carolina manager Colin Clarke didn’t change any of the RailHawks’ formation or spacing coming off a recent 4-1 win in league play.
“I just told the boys to go out and have fun,” he said.
The RailHawks got their fans excited early as Ty Shipalane was set up by Matt Watson in the right side of the box in the seventh minute, but his shot was blocked by a West Ham defender.
Three minutes later captain Nazmi Albadawi curled a ball from just outside the right-top box, but it sailed past the post to Hammers starting goalkeeper Adrian’s left.
The RailHawks’ persistence soon paid off and they were credited for an own-goal deposited into the Hammers’ goal by Winston Reid who deflected an attempted cross from Albadawi and gave Carolina a 1-0 lead.
It didn’t take West Ham long to even the score as Reid made up for his misplay at the other end of the pitch.
He finished the possession he gained at the top-center of the box and curled a shot past Carolina starting goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald and both teams stood 1-1 in the 18th minute of play.
“The ball went up and it dropped, someone put in a tackle and it fell to Andy (Carroll), who found me and I finished it,” Reid said in describing his marker in the postgame scrum.
“The ball got played into the middle and I went with it and it ricocheted to Andy and I was pleased with the way I put it away.”
Carroll then put the Hammers ahead 2-1 two minutes later, beating RailHawks defender Kareem Moses to the ball as a three-player deep cross from Sofiane Feghouhli found him open.
“It’s good to hit the back of the net, as it’s what my job is,” Carroll said.
“It’s good to go out in preseason and get a goal and start the season off well. It was a great cross in from Sofiane and as soon as it went in I knew I had a chance to score. I got a good touch on it and it went in.”
A 4-1-4-1 set by the Hammers began to immobilize the RailHawks offensive push attempts as play entered the 27th minute.
Carolina’s most dangerous attack to pull even came a few minutes later as a quick heel touch from Matt Fondy back across the top of the box to Brian Shriver allowed him to put a high shot attempt past Adrian, but not past the cross bar and post from where it rebounded off high into the air from.
With the clock still counting down, all players and officials took a mutual water break as the humid and warm conditions showed on the players’ uniforms and faces.
While both sides continued to show effective touches and passes on either side of the half line, neither presented anymore threats toward either goal for the remainder of the half.
The Hammers carried the 2-1 advantage into the break.
Both teams changed the makeup of their lineups with numerous substitutions to start the next 45 minutes of regulation play.
However, with highly visible lightning strikes and rain falling at a consistent rate, the referee suspended the game in the 63rd minute, a delay that would hold for 40 minutes before play was resumed.
“I’ve never played in a game which has been stopped for a storm like that,” Reid said.
Those in attendance were not deterred and returned to their seats when play resumed with 62:08 on clock showing.
The delay worked to Carolina’s favor which paid off with a penalty kick opportunity that was awarded in the 67th minute.
Having come into the game as a sub for Shriver in the 38th minute, Marvin Ceballos was afforded the chance to even the score following a challenge for ball possession against West Ham’s Lewis Page.
As both played for the ball, Page looked to have dived for the ball and in doing so contacted it with his hand in the box near the goal line to second-half goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel’s left post.
Ceballos made no mistake with the penalty kick as he chipped the ball under the cross bar past Spiegel and evened the score 2-2, the eventual final score.
“The first half, it was so hot that it was really hard to get your breath,” Reid pointed out.
“The second half was completely different and the storm which arrived 15 minutes in broke it up and they scored a short time after we came back on.”
Even though both teams continued to make numerous substitutions to bring on fresh legs and avoid injury, the Hammers did suffer what looked like a serious leg injury to Doneil Henry in the 84th minute.
Though not sure on the severity of Henry’s injury, Bilic and his players were appreciative of how their U.S. Tour concluded.
“I said before that the match against Seattle came way too early after just two or three days training,” he said.
“For this, we were more on a level to play a competitive game. The result is always important, don’t get me wrong, but it was not the most important thing today.”
“It was a good workout, especially with the weather in the first half,” Carroll added.
“I know it changed after halftime, but it was really hot for the lads and we got out of it what we needed.”
For Clarke and the RailHawks, the finish was not as desirable as a win at home, but an experience that he was happy with and hoped his players would carry forward in their next league game at Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.
“I thought our boys done very, very well against a good team,” he said.
“Overall, delighted – we gained a lot of confidence. I thought we played very well, particularly in the early part of the game. We moved it, created chances – delighted…Moving forward, we feel that we’ve got a very good team. We’ll continue to look and add and improve.”
Notes: According to West Ham media relations personnel, following the game, the Hammers were scheduled to fly back to England on Wednesday before embarking on another training trip consisting of a three-match tour and training camp to be held in Austria next weekend. Following that, the Hammers will kick off UEFA Europa League third-round qualifying on July 28 before hosting a Betway Cup match against Juventus at London Stadium on Aug. 7. At that point, West Ham’s preseason training that began in the U.S. will be concluded before opening EPL play on Aug. 15th.
CAR 2, WHU 2
CAR: Akira Fitzgerald (Brian Sylvestre 46 (Macklin Robinson 87)), Drew Beckie (DJ Mason 62), Simon Mensing (Steven Miller 46), Kareem Moses, James Marcelin, Matt Watson (Keaton Albert 25 (James Oronzco 32)), Brian Shriver (Marvin Ceballos 38 (Manny Perez 80)), Nazmi Albadawi (Aly Hassan 63) ©, Tiyi Shipalane (Jose Morales 63 (Lucas Del Rosario 35)), Austin da Luz (Jonathon Orlando 62), Matt Fondy (Billy Schuler 46 (Omar Bravo 80))
WHU: Adrian (Raphael Spiegel 46)), Mark Noble, Winston Reid (Declan Rice 63), Andy Carroll (Antonio Martinez 46), Aaron Cresswell (Lewis Page 46), Pedro Obiang (Diego Poyet, 63), Sofiane Fegouhli (Domingos Quina 63), Manuel Lanzini (Marcus Browne 63), Sam Byram (Moses Makasi 63), Martin Samuelsen, Reece Burke (Doneil Henry 63)
Goals: CAR: Reid (OG 13), Ceballos (67); WHU: Reid (18), Carroll (20)
Cautions: CAR: Miller (51), WHU: Page (67), Quina (90+)