CARY — Colin Clarke stood near midfield, gazing up at the southeast corner of WakeMed Soccer Park and watched the postgame fireworks show. After studying them until the final one went off, the Carolina RailHawks coach walked over for his interviews with the media and remarked, That looked like our defending tonight. All over the place.
That was one way to look at it, and there are many ways to look at a game in which the RailHawks went from down two goals to earning a tie in the games last three minutes, gaining a 3-3 home tie with the Fort Lauderdale in stoppage time.
Super-sub Ty Shipalane received a long cross from Mike Palacio at the right post before sending in his 94th minute goal, the final peak in a game of valleys for Carolina.
The RailHawks went on top first in the 13th minute when Palacio sent in a rebound that had hit the post on a shot by Breiner Ortiz.
The next 15 minutes were dominated by Carolina, but one-on-ones with Fort Lauderdales goalkeeper were missed by Nick Zimmerman (a kick save) and Brian Shriver (a skying shot that went into the parking lot). Two other open chances a header that was pushed wide by Zack Schilawski in the 6th minute and a sitter by Amir Lowery in the 12th minute that was also shot well over the stands behind the goal.
I thought everyone did very well in the first 25 minutes of the game and the last five. In between? I dont think anyone can look at themselves, because they all had a hand in what was wrong and that was good, Clarke said. Weve got to work defensively. Weve got to read the game and understand whats going on during the game and react to it better. You cant run and sprint and go forward for 90 minutes at the pace we do. There are times when youve just got to sit and be compact and get your breather, get your rest and then go again. We dont do a good job of recognizing when that is and doing it.
Fort Lauderdale, which seemed winded at the games outset, found counterattack opportunities and swung the games momentum.
The Strikers started a counterattack off a bad RailHawks giveaway on a corner kick to score in the 31st, with Abe Thompson assisting Darnell King. One minute and 25 seconds later, Fort Lauderdale found the net again, working a give-and-go on the right side with Thompson assisting Walter Restrepo.
Carolina (5-5-6) had 14 first-half shots to Fort Lauderdales five, but trailed 2-1 at halftime.
We controlled the first 25 minutes of the game and the game shouldve been over. We had six, seven gilded chances, Clarke said. Then defensively we were terrible on the two goals, and all of a sudden the momentum changes.
In the 69th minute, another counterattack left just two RailHawks to play catch-up with Restrepo, who scored on an assist from King. The Strikers (5-6-5) nearly scored again via the counterattack in the 77th, but blew a 3-on-1 break against Carolina goalkeeper Ray Burse by pushing a pass out of play for a goal kick.
Carolina, which settled for a 3-3 tie earlier this year at home to Fort Lauderdale despite leading 3-1, exacted revenge in the last five minutes of regulation and the four minutes of stoppage time.
Palacio was unable to describe exactly how he scored his second goal of the game in the 87th minute, weaving through four Strikers defenders in the box to give Carolina hope.
Two RailHawks chances in stoppage time were covered up by Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser, but one more was left when Palacio collected the ball on the left side of the field as the final whistle neared. Reserve forward Brian Ackley made a run through the box, taking a Strikers defender with him and leaving Shipalane, who has shown a flair for the dramatic goal this season, open at the back post.
As much as Clarke was critical of his team not putting the game out of reach early, there was something positive to be gained from getting a point after being outplayed for a 60-minute portion of the games midsection.
Two goals behind in five minutes? Thats great. That boosts our whole teams confidence, Palacio said.