by Neil Morris
Etienne and Campos finally reunited Saturday night in Minneapolis, this time as members of Minnesota United FC against the RailHawks. But a star by any other name still shines just a bright, and Etienne was just that, notching a brace for his first goals since returning to the NASL. However, a late golazo by newest RailHawk Enzo Martinez gave Carolina a 2-2 draw with Minnesota and an important road point against the consensus NASL preseason favorites.
The RailHawks opened the game with the purpose and precision of a team that had two weeks to rest and ready for this key road match. With the duo of Julius James and Paul Hamilton teaming for the first time at center back for the RailHawks, Carolina controlled possession much of the first half and held the vaunted Minnesota offense in check. The most dangerous shots for Minnesota came from Etienne and Miguel Ibarra, but both sailed beyond the crossbar.
Carolina’s steady play was rewarded in the 40th minute when Austin da Luz played a corner kick out to Floyd Franks along the right flank. Franks played the ball back to da Luz, whose left-footed looper found Jordan Graye making a run far post in the middle of the 6 yard box. Graye’s header found the net for his first RailHawk goal and a 1-0 lead at halftime.
Minnesota United existed intermission the aggressors, and that paid dividends in the 58th minute. Etienne got in behind a tentative Carolina defense and gathered a ball over the top before slotting a deft chip past RailHawks’ goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald for the equalizer. Six minutes later, Hamilton was whistled for a handball penalty off a long-range shot by Michael Reed. Etienne stepped to the spot (natch) and powered his PK top-shelf for the go-ahead goal.
Minnesota nearly got another goal in the 71st when Simone Bracalello’s 30-yard free kick caromed off the crossbar. In the 71st minute, RailHawks’ manager Colin Clarke substituted in Martinez, who just arrived at Carolina’s camp Wednesday on loan from Real Salt Lake, for Ty Shipalane. Clarke positioned Martinez on the left wing and shifted Shriver to the right.
With Etienne providing a glimpse of the RailHawks’ past, this switch to their present paid off in the 84th minute when Martinez took possession along with left flank, maneuvered his way midfield (rounding Etienne in the process), and cut loose a screamer from 25 yards that flew past goalkeeper Daryl Sattler into the left netting.
“It was a great strike and the kid’s got a lot of talent and ability and we’re pleased to have him,” said Clarke in a postgame webcast interview.
Carolina's two goals were the first surrendered during the run-of-play this season by Minnesota United.
With all three NASL matches ending in draws Saturday night, Carolina and Minnesota remain in a three-way tie with the Tampa Bay Rowdies atop the NASL table.
The RailHawks returns home next Saturday, May 11 to host the San Antonio Scorpions, which won both visits to WakeMed Soccer Park last season. Kickoff is 7:00 p.m.