CARY — The Carolina Railhawks squandered a chance to wrap up the NASL spring season title on Saturday night. But all things considered, they feel pretty good about the result.
Austin da Luz scored in the 89th minute off a set piece to help the Railhawks earn a 1-1 tie with the Atlanta Silverbacks at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Were alive, Carolina coach Colin Clarke said. We still own our own destiny so to speak. A lot of emotions right now as far as disappointed in some ways, relief in some ways.
Carolina entered the game with a two-point advantage over Atlanta in the NASL spring season. A Railhawks win would have clinched the first-half title, allowing the team to host the Soccer Bowl championship in November.
Instead, the Railhawks head to San Antonio on Thursday for the spring seasons final game of the spring season with the same two-point advantage.
Still, they will likely need a result.
While a victory would definitively clinch the title, a tie would also leave Carolina sitting pretty Atlanta needs to win at Minnesota by at least four goals.
A Railhawks loss would lead to a convoluted series of tiebreakers, so the Railhawks players are choosing to simplify things by focusing on what they can control winning in Texas.
We dont like to drop points at home, but at the end of the day, were still in first place, da Luz said. We have destiny in our hands going down to San Antonio, so take the good with the bad, and well move on.
Until da Luz intervened, it looked like it would the Railhawks would have to take the bad from the game.
Bobby Reiss scored for the Silverbacks in the 63rd minute, tapping in a cross from Danny Barrera.
An Atlanta win would have given the Silverbacks a one-point edge with one road game remaining for both teams and Carolina has yet to win away from home.
But da Luz got his head on a Ciaran OBrien corner kick, knocking it into the net to thrill the crowd of 5,304.
It was a fantastic ball by Ciaran, da Luz said. Hes come on and done it the past few games for us. I got in the right spot, and luckily it ended up in the back of the net. Im not sure how it got there I know it hit me in the head.
The Railhawks hadnt dropped a point at home before Saturday, winning all five of their games at WakeMed.
Still, it could have been worse.
Weve just got to settle down and get ready for a trip to San Antonio where we need to get a result, Clarke said.