WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—I woke this morning and discovered, like so many journalists, that my job is endangered. Another form of news media threatens my livelihood with its speed, resources and superior delivery of product.
The interloper is called a daily newspaper.
I refer to the News & Observer, which finally noticed the professional soccer team in its midst and gave last night's U.S. Open Cup opener the front of the sports section, above-the-fold. (What? No hockey? No NASCAR? No Kobe-Dwight Howard stories off the wire? No high school soccer?)
But there it is. Accompanying Rachel Ullrich's report on the RailHawks' 2-1 victory over the Richmond Kickers is a Robert Willett photo, front and center, of the evening's most heart-stopping split second, when RailHawks goalkeeper Eric Reed just barely turned aside Gerson Dos Santos’ curling free kick from 25 yards out, in the game's second minute.
Not fair: We don't have a staff sports photographer in our new-media paradigm!
Seriously, it's great to see Martin Rennie's fine team attract more attention. In addition to the N&O, you can read an account by Triangle Offense's hockey diva Kate Shefte, who is moonlighting as a summer intern with the Cary News. The RailHawks' Tim Candon's account is here.
And be sure to pick up an Indy today for my own look at the RailHawks’ midfielders.
Aside from the enjoyment of watching the RailHawks play aggressive, disciplined football successfully—with stormy clouds overhead getting stormier throughout the game—I also enjoyed watching Chris Carrieri come out of "retirement" last night, playing striker, wing, whatever for the Kickers.
But here's the deal: Carrieri's a part-time player, and he lives in Holly Springs, N.C. A little background: Carrieri was a member of the RailHawks in the inaugural season of 2007. He made made 32 appearances (28 in league play and four in the U.S. Open Cup). According to records supplied by the RailHawks, he played 2,403 minutes (2,129 in USL-1, 274 in USOC), with no goals and three assists. This works out to 75 minutes per game, so he seemingly had a solid spot on the RailHawks lineup.
Nonetheless, he announced his retirement the following March, thus abandoning a career that, despite some underachievement, featured spectacular highlights. He was a first-team All-American at UNC in 2000, scoring 25 goals and 14 assists. A checkered pro career followed, but he's remembered fondly by Colorado Rapids fans for the hat trick he scored in a 2002 game, all as a second-half substitute—on Independence Day, no less, in front of 61,000 fans.
[The highlights on the following video begin at 1:22.]
The presence of Carrieri in this match gave the game the feel of a semipro, barnstorming affair. We already had the makeshift pitch, the bumpy, bare Field 2 that is standing in while the main stadium is re-sodded, and the families sitting near the touchline and on the hillside overlooking the field. Really, it looked like one of those vintage baseball games from a century ago, when the factory workers in a New England town would go to the ball field after the first-shift whistle, and root for their home side versus the visiting players from two counties over. And, then, there's the local one-time prodigy who makes an appearance and draws whistles and jeers, even as we can see the vestiges of his youthful brilliance. Kinda like Shoeless Joe Jackson after he was banished from major league baseball: He continued to play in the South Carolina-Georgia semipro circuit for two decades.
Last night, Carrieri appeared on the field for the Kickers, making his first appearance since signing a week and a half ago. His name wasn't on his jersey. He seemed to be a free-floating ringer, here playing on the left, there collecting balls in midfield. One had to wonder how his presence was going down with Matthew Delicâte and David Bulow, who are the full-time core of the Kickers attack.
Nonetheless, Carrieri—who is still only 29 years old—showed flashes of his talent, finding space behind the RailHawks' ever-venturesome right back Devon McKenney, and he sent a couple of nice passes into the box toward Bulow and Delicâte. In the 30th minute, after he drew a foul in front of the bleachers, the orange-clad 204 Depot wiseacres began chanting "RailHawks reject! RailHawks reject!" He made it through the whole game, although he was clearly hobbling by the end.
I caught up with him afterward. The first words out of his mouth were, "Man, I fell apart in the last 20 minutes!" I asked him about his status with the Kickers. He said he would play with the Kickers when they are playing their North Carolina league opponents, Wilmington and Charlotte. "I've got a good relationship with Leigh [Cowlishaw, the Kicker's coach since 2000]."
Carrieri said he only first trained with the squad Monday night, the day before the game. "It's a good team, well-trained. We put up a good fight." As for his own fitness, Carrieri said, "I'm fit. Just not match fit!"
Carrieri continues to work at the Carolina Soccer Club in Raleigh.
A few more notes:
The RailHawks have only one day off before returning to Field 2 Thursday at 7 p.m. to play USL-1 rival Portland. Expect Rennie to exploit the depth of his squad and introduce a number of lineup changes.
Box score here.