The Carolina RailHawks wasted little time breaking out of their scoring rut and U.S. Open Cup hangover en route to an easy 3-0 win against the Ottawa Fury on Saturday.
The goals were two more than they had scored in the three previous NASL fall season games combined (all losses). The NASL season kicked off just days after the team was ousted from the U.S. Open Cup’s round of 16 by FC Dallas.
Until the team’s struggles on the road turn around – they haven’t won away from WakeMed Soccer Park all year – each home game is must-win for the RailHawks (1-3-0 W-L-T).
“The good thing about tonight is we got our rear ends in check at home. If we keep that going and keep improving and playing the way we have been these past couple of games then we’ll start getting points on the road,” forward Zack Schilawski said. “Every game’s important. Every game’s huge. We can’t lose any more games, we’ve got to get at least a point.”
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The rejuvenated attack showed its form early. Carolina’s ability to attack direct worked well against a large but slow-footed Ottawa (0-2-1) back line.
After several early scoring chances, the RailHawks went up 1-0 in the 10th minute. Enzo Martinez crossed the ball into an open box, where Schilawski back-tracked for the sitter before tucking in the goal.
Schilawski’s brace came in the 38th minute. Finding himself open on the break after a Cesar Elizondo pass and with the Ottawa goalkeeper coming out, he chipped in the goal from 25 feet out.
“They were playing a bit risky and I’m not sure they were the most organized with it,” Schilawski said. “We were able to kind of cheat a little bit and sneak a few through, especially in the first half. If we had finished a couple others too we would’ve had a few more.”
The RailHawks went into halftime up 2-0 and yet had two golden opportunities for more. Elizondo hit the post on an open-netter and Martinez couldn’t get a 1-v-1 past the oncoming goalkeeper.
The missed chances were soon forgotten.
Ottawa played a high line in the second half, but the RailHawks quickly adjusted.
Right back Jordan Graye received a through ball down the flank and sent in a cross that went off the goalkeeper’s mitts and fell to the back post. There, Nazmi Albadawi stooped over to head it in off a low bounce.
The RailHawks were up 3-0 in the 48th minute and the score held till the end.
Graye, a former standout at North Carolina, was on the 2013 RailHawks but had been in Washington D.C. for an internship at a financial advising company. He moved back to Raleigh recently, just as the team needed another defender.
“I needed a break. I had been playing a lot of games in a short period of time. I just wanted a break to gather my thoughts and see where I wanted to take my soccer career and see where I wanted to take other things in my career and explore my options,” Graye said.
His decision isn’t unusual. Nick Millington, 24, retired earlier this month to go to law school.