One week after a disappointing loss on the road to the San Antonio Scorpions, the Carolina RailHawks bounced back and used a productive first half to defeat the Atlanta Silverbacks 2-0 while prolonging its home unbeaten streak to 19 games.
The RailHawks dominated possession throughout the first half, and Carolina (3-1-2) capitalized on the opportunities it got quickly.
In the 14th minute, RailHawks forward Mike Grella was taken down by Silverbacks defender Ryan Roushandel within the penalty box, and a penalty was called.
Moments later, Grella stepped up and got his penalty kick past Silverbacks goalkeeper Eric Ati to give the RailHawks a 1-0 lead.
The score was the first as a RailHawk for Grella, a former Duke standout, who signed with Carolina in April.
“It was good. It was good to score. It felt good to earn the penalty as well, and not just take someone else’s penalty kick,” Grella said.
A little over twenty minutes later, RailHawks forward Zack Schilawski played in a cross to the right side of the box, which Connor Tobin skied up for and headed in, making the score 2-0 in the 36th minute.
“Zack played in a great ball. I didn’t really have a whole lot to do. I just kind of got my head on it, and luckily it worked out,” Tobin said.
While Carolina was taking care of the ball and getting the better looks on goal, RailHawks goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald had little to worry about for much of the first half.
The Silverbacks (2-0-4) only had one shot on target in the first half.
“The easiest way to defend is to keep the ball. We did that in the first half,” said RailHawks coach Colin Clarke.
But the roles were reversed in the second half as it was Atlanta that began getting better scoring opportunities.
In the 68th minute, the Silverbacks had two shots on goal, but Fitzgerald stymied Atlanta to extend the shutout.
Throughout the rest of the second half, Atlanta had a few more opportunities to get one in the back of the net, but the Silverbacks just couldn’t get anything past Fitzgerald.
“For a small keeper, he’s very agile and very quick around the goal. I thought he made some great saves tonight when we needed him,” Clarke said.
The RailHawks will look to carry momentum into next week’s match on the road against Minnesota United FC, as Clarke’s club is still searching for its first road win of the season.
Carolina returns to Cary on Wednesday for a matchup against the Charlotte Eagles of the USL in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.