CARY — The Carolina RailHawks lost in their first friendly of the season, but not many fans left WakeMed Soccer Park disappointed.
Cary native Zack Schilawski was the star of the show in leading the New England Revolution to a 2-1 victory before 3,538 fans Saturday night.
Schilawski graduated from Cary High, played in the Capital Area Soccer League and enjoyed a storied career at Wake Forest. He was selected ninth overall by the Revolution in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
To make the evening even more Hollywood-esque, Schilawski scored the winning goal with less than three minutes left in the match.
"I was just in the right place at the right time," said Schilawski, who had his own personal fan club of Cary High students and family on hand. "This whole week has been just awesome. I'm glad the fans came to see me play."
New England took the lead on Pat Phelan's header off a Mike Mansally corner kick in the 41st minute of the first half. The lead held until 85:03 in the second when Carolina's Mark Schulte scored on a scrum following a corner kick to tie the score. Schilawski broke the tie less than two minutes later.
The loss, however, was just fine with RailHawks coach Martin Rennie.
"Sometimes it's better to lose in the preseason; that way you learn more," he said. "Players have a tendency to listen more when they play poorly and lose as opposed to playing poor and winning."
Carolina has three more weeks of preseason play before it debuts in the new USSF Division-2 Pro League on April 10. The squad will be looking to continue the success of last season's 21-10-8 record, including a franchise-best 16 wins, 55 points earned and a runner-up finish in the division.
"We have no major injuries, and once we get everybody back, we'll be on track," Rennie said. "I was pleased with our defensive effort. They didn't outplay us."
For the Revolution, Saturday's game wraps up a 12-day preseason training trip in the Triangle.
Schilawski wasn't the only player with a homecoming of sorts: teammates Darrius Barnes and Mike Videira, who were also Duke teammates, play for the Revolution. Barnes is injured, while Videira is a reserve.
But the night belonged to Schilawski, who scored the winning goal in the 2007 NCAA College Cup final at WakeMed.
"This field has been good to me," he said. "I feel comfortable here."