by Neil Morris
The match itself was a rather lackluster affair. Neither team seriously threatened on the offensive end, although the RailHawks enjoyed more frequent forays into the attacking third. However, while Charleston has already played three friendlies against MLS competition (including a win over Toronto FC and a draw versus the Chicago Fire), this was Carolina’s highest level of competition yet since training camp opened.
“It was a typical preseason game where players are trying to get fit and learning to play a certain way,” said RailHawks’ head coach Martin Rennie. “We have a lot of new players trying to figure out the system. A lot of guys played 90 minutes for the first time and no one got hurt, but certainly [the game] was far from what it needs to be in terms of attacking play and penetration. I’m sure it wasn’t a great game to watch, but preseason friendlies can be like that.”
Although the RailHawks’ roster continues to come into focus (more on that below), there were several players who garnered attention.
The clubs’ new first-team goalkeeper — whose identity, while still officially unannounced, is the worst-kept secret among RailHawks supporters — made two terrific saves during the first half and appeared quite adept organizing the backline. Rennie says the team’s backup keeper has not been settled, but during the second half former Wake Forest standout Akira Fitzgerald again saw time on the pitch.
Gregory Richardson appeared in fine form and generated the RailHawks most serious scoring threats. Brad Rusin was a stately stopper at center defense. Allan Russell returned to begin his second season at WakeMed Park, but neither he nor Sallieu Bundu made an impression during today’s match.
Among newcomers, ex-Portland Timbers starter Brian Farber came on in the second half and displayed terrific speed and technical prowess as an attacking midfielder. Johnny Steele and Chris Nurse were also a steady presence at midfield — indeed, Steele played the entire match.
We were also introduced to Bermudan winger Khano Smith. Smith had an uneasy relationship with supporters during his stints with the New England Revolution and Lincoln City of England’s League Two. However, with fleet feet, nimble passing, and a 6 ft. 3 in. frame that can easily be confused for a center back, it is easy to see why coaches, including Rennie, continue to see potential in the 30-year-old.
However, today’s match was most significant for who wasn’t there. Rennie told Triangle Offense that Sainey Touray, the promising young forward who figured to play a significant role on this year’s squad, would not be part of the RailHawks’ roster this season.
The news is especially significant given the time and development the RailHawks invested in Touray, whose promising debut last year was stymied by a preseason hamstring injury that kept him out of action the majority of 2010. Rennie spoke eagerly of Touray’s return this past offseason, and he played significant minutes during preseason scrimmages this year against CASL Elite and UNC-Wilmington.
“We worked with [Touray] the last 12 to 16 months, and he hasn’t developed to the level we would have liked,” said Rennie. “So, he’s not going to be on the roster. The level of our team is getting better and he’s not quite there yet. He’s still really young and needs to play somewhere [regularly].”
Other news and notes from today’s match:
- Rennie says that pending the resolution of immigration visa issues, Etienne Barbara is set to enter Railhawks camp in a couple of weeks. Barbara is currently playing for the Sliema Wanderers in Malta, so Rennie expects the striker will be fit when he arrives in Carolina for his second season with the RailHawks.
- Rennie is also awaiting the arrival of Kithson Bain, Stephen Glass, and Matt Watson, who will rejoin the RailHawks following the end of his indoor soccer season with the Baltimore Blast.
- We spied Matt Bobo at today’s scrimmage. Clad in civies and still living in Cary, the 34-year-old defender told Triangle Offense that he was likely to retire from competitive soccer due to a nagging knee injury. Bobo spent nearly a decade playing U.S. second and third division club soccer, including All-League stints with the Atlanta Silverbacks and Charleston Battery before joining the RailHawks last year.
The Carolina RailHawks next preseason scrimmage will be Wednesday, March 23 against the Charlotte Eagles. Game time is 3:00 p.m. on Field 4.