CARY — The boos kept pouring down from the WakeMed Soccer Park stands. The last few minutes of this round of the U.S. Open Cup were a far cry from last week’s exhilarating heroics that pushed the Carolina RailHawks past the L.A. Galaxy.
But despite the protests of players and fans, the RailHawks’ 2012 Open Cup run ended as 7,117 patrons saw Major League Soccer’s Chivas USA defeat the RailHawks 2-1 on a stoppage-time penalty kick thanks to a handball by Carolina’s Gale Agbossoumonde in the 18-yard-box.
Carolina coach Colin Clarke had no issue with the handball, but rather a no-call that led to it.
Striker Zack Schilawski collided with a Chivas defender at midfield in the early part of stoppage time, and a second later Chivas worked the ball back into the box, where its star Juan Pablo Angel drew a sliding challenge from Agbossoumonde, whose arm pushed the ball as he went by.
“Everybody else saw it, but the referee was garbage tonight. I thought he gave us nothing. Of the 50-50 decisions, he looked after them. And I thought that cost us there," Clarke said.
Clarke said that the handball was a result of inexperience from his 20-year-old centerback, who was trying to mark Angel, a 37-year-old Colombian star who calmly placed the penalty kick into the bottom left corner.
Aside from the final minutes, the game followed a similar script from last week’s upset.
Once again, the RailHawks trailed 1-0 at halftime as the MLS visitors looked like the better team.
After maintaining a majority of possession, Chivas USA struck first in the 32nd minute as a deep Laurent Courtois cross was flicked in by Juan Agudelo. The glancing header froze goalkeeper Ray Burse in his tracks.
Carolina had just two shots at halftime, and didn’t put one on frame until the 50th minute. Many counterattacks were thwarted by MLS veterans Danny Califf and James Riley. But much like it had done against the Galaxy, Carolina began to find some second-half opportunities.
For the second consecutive round, Carolina equalized with a reserve. Midfielder Mike Palacio cleaned up a loose ball after defender Kupono Low made his charge into the box and slotted to tie the game 1-1 in the 79th minute.
"It was right on my left foot, so I knew I was going to one-time it," Palacio said.
Goalkeeper Ray Burse made back-to-back saves on Angel and Agudelo in the 90th, and a corner kick from Chivas was cleared to midfield, where Schilawski tried to collect it, but fell to the ground without a whistle.
"I tried to draw one, thought it could’ve been called," Schilawski said. "I’ve got to hold that ball up, figure out a way -- foul him maybe -- do something to hold that up so it’s not coming back through."
The RailHawks had 10 shots in the second half, but will instead bow out of this year’s Open Cup.