CARY — After back-to-back wins on the road, the Carolina RailHawks came home Saturday hoping to knock out the first-place team in the North American Soccer League.
But that didn’t happen for the RailHawks (9-8-7). In fact, not much happened in a largely uneventful 90 minutes, as the RailHawks fell 1-0 to the San Antonio Scorpions. Both teams mustered only two shots on goal.
Coach Colin Clarke said the problem was poor passing in the first half. “We were better at (passing) in the second half, but we just couldn’t find that finishing touch in front of the goal,” Clarke said. “It was one of those games where there wasn’t a whole lot of chances.”
But there were a few notables.
The Scorpions’ Jeff Cunningham has more goals than any player in Major League Soccer history, with 134. He wasn’t used to going more than a game or two without a goal, so not being able to open his NASL scoring acount was wearing on him.
But Cunningham, in his seventh appearance with his new NASL team, found himself alone at the top of the box, and the 36-year-old tucked in an 85th-minute goal to seal the Scorpions’ win. “I think this is the longest I’ve gone without a goal,” Cunningham said. “It has been weighing on me for sure.”
Thanks to a 1-1 tie between the Minnesota Stars and FC Edmonton, the RailHawks clinched a playoff spot before the game was finished. Clarke was disappointed with the loss in part because he hoped the team could push for first place.
Instead, it’s more likely the RailHawks will finish fourth, fifth or sixth, and there’s an important distinction. The fourth-place team hosts a one-game playoff against the fifth seed, while the sixth seed is on the road for a one-game elimination at the third-place team.
Without forward Brian Ackley and midfielder Cory Elenio due to injury and forward Jason Garey due to a red card in the last game, midfielder Breiner Ortiz on the bench for the game and defender Gale Agbossoumonde not even on the sidelines in a coach’s decision, this was a surprisingly good result for the RailHawks. The team didn’t get the win but it started a largely defensive-minded lineup that conceded one late goal.
Sporting KC transfer Konrad Warzycha made his debut after right back Greg Shields went down with an apparent rib injury.