Three days after its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run ended, the Carolina RailHawks kicked off the NASL fall season with a disappointing 2-1 loss against the Indy Eleven.
Despite looking sloppy on offense, Carolina held a halftime lead but saw it evaporate as the RailHawks played a man down for much of the second half.
In the 65th minute, Indy got on the board when forward Ben Spencer scored the equalizer eight minutes after Carolina defender Austen King received a red card and was ejected from the game for tripping Spencer on a breakaway.
Twenty-two minutes later, Indy took a late lead on a Don Smart goal to secure the club’s first win as a member of the NASL. Indy started play in the league in the spring and went 0-5-4 in the spring season, with one of those draws coming against the RailHawks.
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The RailHawks got off to a slow start, taking just one shot in the first half, but that one shot resulted in a goal.
In the 24th minute, midfielder Enzo Martinez, now with two goals in his last pair of matches, was able to come up with the ball to the right of the goal, and his shot ricocheted off of Indy Eleven goalkeeper Kristian Nicht and into the net.
With Indy outshooting the RailHawks 19-3, the Carolina defense held strong for much of the night but having to play with just 10 players for a long period was an obstacle too big for RailHawks to overcome.
“It’s always difficult to play a man down, and it’s even more difficult when you’re playing against a team like Indy tonight when they’re always pressuring us high,” RailHawks midfielder Kupono Low said.
While he gave up two goals, RailHawks goalkeeper Scott Goodwin’s performance was a marked improvement compared to his last outing against FC Dallas in which he surrendered five scores.
Still, the RailHawks’ messy play on offense is what might have hurt them the most.
Carolina coach Colin Clarke said that his team didn’t do a great job passing, and just wasn’t very sharp.
“We weren’t good with our last passes,” Clarke said. “We just missed, or someone was tripping over. We just looked sharp and as lively as we have been.”
Moving on, Carolina will play three of its next four league games on the road, including next Thursday’s contest at Minnesota United FC.