WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—On a Sunday afternoon best made for poolside lounging, the Minnesota Thunder and Carolina RailHawks shuttled the ball back and forth for 90 minutes. The majority of the RailHawks faithful took their cues from the weather report and stayed away in droves. Had they been at the stadium, the 90-degree temperature combined with the somnambulant pace of the game could have produced the world’s largest collective nap.
For the 3,500 regular fans who missed the game, there were 22 players running about, clattering into each other, trying to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of scoring a goal. It finally happened in the 58th minute, following some haphazard, lackluster, heavy-legged, bamboozling, half-baked shenanigans from Minnesota.
As the Thunder tried to play out of the back, the ball went screaming into touch. Carolina threw in, Gardner crossed, Plotkin nicked, the ball pinballed off two defenders, a leg swung, and the ball dropped kindly to Plotkin, who poked past Nic Platter, swatting at flies (or was it gnats? It’s so hard to tell from a distance). One-nil. Done and dusted.
The good sign for RailHawks fans was the shift in tactical focus evident in Martin Rennie’s substitutions. At this point last year, all attacking players would have been pulled in favor of rabidly defending a 1 – nil lead to the bitter end. Now, fresh attackers replace tiring attackers, and the killer goal pursued. The second goal might have come, had it not been so bloody hot, but in the end it wasn’t needed.
Five months from now, not many will remember this soporific afternoon at Wake Med Soccer Park, but we will be able to count the three points in the win column. If anyone at home is counting, adding, or multiplying, that’s nine points from three matches. True, the RailHawks aren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard with a total of four goals, but they’ve only conceded once. Let’s hope the attacking movements become a bit crisper in the coming weeks and that the RailHawks find a way to commit more players in attack.
The ‘Hawks travel to Portland next week for two games against the Timbers, on Thursday and Saturday. Both games can be seen free online at usllive.com. The ‘Hawks return to WakeMed Park on Saturday, May 9, for a Southern Derby match against the Charleston Battery.