Tonight's game in Cary was supposed to be against the Chicago Fire. The Wilmington Hammerheads forced a change in those plans two weeks ago.
Now the Fire are in Wilmington for the third round of the U.S. Open Cup while the ’Hawks play a recently scheduled friendly versus the Panama national team at 7 p.m. tonight. This will be the first time, team officials say, that the RailHawks have played a national team.
The Panamanians are coming off a 2-0 defeat to Honduras in a game that was played Sunday at WakeMed. Attendance for that game was modest, at 3,766, according to the RailHawks office, but still greater than the 2,783 who turned out to see the RailHawks-Puerto Rico game Saturday. (Attendance on Sunday surely would have been better had it not been scheduled on the heels of the U.S. men's national team's heartbreaker against Brazil in South Africa.)
Coach Martin Rennie faces an interesting dilemma in tonight's game. On one hand, he has a struggling team that could use a quality opponent in a friendly to continue to work out kinks, both in the back and the front.
On the other hand, this is an opportunity to give certain performers some badly needed rest, while taking a look at other players—including, possibly, players that are training but not on the roster.
One could see it going either way: The RailHawks don't play another league game until July 11, thus giving regular players plenty of time to recover even if they're in the lineup tonight. We're guessing new players, but we shall see.
The RailHawks play another friendly July 3 at 7 p.m. in Cary, against their good friends, the Wilmington Hammerheads.