CARY — The Carolina RailHawks and Atlanta Silverbacks spent more time in the locker room for lightning delays than they did on the field against one another on Tuesday night.
In a game that was stopped two times in the first half, totaling one hour and 53 minutes of delays, RailHawks’ midfielder Nick Zimmerman also struck twice to help Carolina win 2-1.
It was nearly the third straight home game with Atlanta that had ended early – the April 14 season opener was called final in stoppage time after an official was pushed down in an altercation and a game last July was abandoned in the 50th minute after two stoppages due to lightning.
“It seems like every time we play Atlanta at home, it happens,” said Zimmerman, who scored a goal in each half.
Zimmerman’s night got off to a quick start after scoring in the fourth minute. He finished off a two-man counterattack started by Jason Garey, who found his teammate streaking to the goal unmarked. At the moment, it tied Zimmerman for the North American Soccer League lead.
“He’s doing great. He’s scoring goals, enjoying himself, having fun. This is a fun team to play on when we’re playing well,” Carolina coach Colin Clarke said of Zimmerman.
Clarke also credited Garey, who has scored just once this year for the RailHawks. The former MLS veteran started in place of Cary native Zack Schilawski and held up possession at the top of the formation.
“Some of his lay offs and some of his touches, you could see what he’s all about,” said Clarke.
Atlanta evened the score in the 15th minute, a Carolina (5-5-5) defensive breakdown allowing the Silverbacks’ Borfor Carr finding Matt Horth, who one-touched it past goalkeeper Ray Burse, open in the box.
The game was delayed in the 23rd and 28th minutes, each time due to lightning.
The RailHawks created more chances than Atlanta after the second delay, but went into halftime still tied 1-1.
Zimmerman scored on a header in the 50th minute, as right back Cory Elenio’s cross found the new league leader in goals.
“He just put it on my head. It was really an easy finish from there. Cory did all the hard work. It was a great ball and I would’ve felt bad if I had missed it,” said Zimmerman, who now has nine on the season – one more than former teammat Pablo Campos.
Aside from Schilawski, two other usual starters did not start. Midfielder Austin da Luz missed the game with an injury suffered in the previous game – a road loss to Fort Lauderdale – while Breiner Ortiz came off the bench.
Wynalda’s debut ends in a loss
One of the most notable professional coaching debuts in the NASL’s short revived history may have also been the longest. Almost four hours after it started, Eric Wynalda had a loss in his first game as interim head coach of the Atlanta Silverbacks.
The retired U.S. men’s national team player and national soccer hall-of-famer, and current FOX soccer analyst, got his first look at the cellar-dwelling Silverbacks (1-9-5).
“I think, at times, we played all right. If you noticed, it four minutes into each half that we got scored on. So maybe if we get the first five minutes of the half figured out, we’ll be all right,” Wynalda said. “There is some real quality in (the RailHawks’) side, and I think that that was the difference tonight.”
Continued Wynalda: “Now I know what I’ve got. You can watch games on tape a thousand times but not until you see it live do you know what exactly those little nuances you look for (in) players.”