In a final flurry of very ruffled feathers, the Cary-based Carolina RailHawks flap into a doubleheader against the Charleston Battery and Portland Timbers in USL-1’s final regular season weekend. The stakes are high, as anything less than six points will snare no better than an 8th-place finish for the sophomore ’Hawks. In addition to winning two in two, they only make the playoffs if Atlanta and Minnesota choke.
On the bright side, if they do manage this Sisyphean task, they will be in the playoffs, which is of uncertain benefit other than fashioning a mantle of Cinderella to be lugged about. On the confusing side, why are there only seven teams in the playoffs? The ’Hawks finished 8th last year and made the 'offs before being beaten soundly by Seattle.
It has been a rough year for the RailHawks who have struggled to find consistency, though they have been playing much better of late. The additions of players from Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico, Uruguay and Chile have begun to gel with those from Raleigh, California, Colorado, England, and Cote d’Ivoire (to name a few), scoring 21 goals in their last nine games. There is a core of young talent spiced with some graybeards in their early 30s, which bodes well for the future. This season, however, will look better in the Annals of American Soccer.
Before the avoidable, yet inevitable, 1-1 draw with Rochester last weekend, Scott Schweitzer pleaded for patience from the fans, and possibly the management. It was a pretty convincing plea, until with a 1-0 lead in the 82nd minute, an attacker was pulled off for a defender and in the 82nd minute it was 1-1. Even the staunchly supportive commentating crew were aghast at the decision which left the ‘Hawks scratching out a point when three were beak-bound.
Regardless of their chances of getting to the playoffs, I always recommend that people go to see the RailHawks play. They feature a great mix of international and home grown soccer talent in a comfortable, public transportation-free place to watch it. Almost like home, with all the niggling beauty of athletic reality. You might also want to see proof of the old Wall Street adage: Even if you don’t make it, they will come.
The RailHawks' Friday night match in Charleston will be televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel at 8 p.m. Saturday, the ’Hawks return to Cary for their final regular season game, against Portland. That match kicks off at 7:30 p.m.