Right when it appears time to count the RailHawks out of the running for a postseason berth, they pull it together and reel off a win to stay in the race, as was the case in Sunday afternoon’s 3-0 win against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
When asking how the RailHawks seem to continue to rattle off wins when they appear to be falling out of the race, coach Colin Clarke interjected, “When was that?”
A few moments later, he continued: “You can never expect anything. All you can do is go out and work hard and have no regrets at the end and see where it takes you. We’ve put ourselves in a good position in a battle between … five clubs that all probably feel they have a chance with four games to go. We’ve done ourselves a lot of good today and now that’s done we have to concentrate on Wednesday night.”
Sunday’s match was originally supposed to be played Saturday night, but was moved due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew. The RailHawks only have two days of rest until Wednesday, when they’ll host Rayo OKC.
Clarke said the team will take time to recover and find ways to improve through watching film.
“We got the first goal early, which helps,” Clarke said. “But (the Strikers) had us under pressure and the first goal settled us down. Then we were able to dictate a little bit how the game is played and a quick thinking on the second goal.”
Birthday boy Austin da Luz scored his second goal over the past four games, heading in a Matt Fondy cross in the 25th minute.
Nazmi Albadawi set the single-season NASL record for assists (10) in the 42nd minute, cheekily chipping a free kick over the Fort Lauderdale wall to a wide open Brian Shriver to double Carolina’s lead right before the halftime break.
"That was spur of the moment” Shriver said. “So I kind of looked back, saw Naz, he called my name, and flipped it over the wall and took the first touch and was trying to put it on goal."
The RailHawks’ momentum continued into the second half, and Matt Watson was able to put the nail in the coffin with a rocket shot near the left corner of the 18-yard box in the 82nd minute.
Carolina doesn’t control its own destiny: Despite having a game in hand over fourth-place Minnesota, the fifth-place Tampa Bay Rowdies have a game in hand over the RailHawks. However, it’s unlikely the Carolina would be left out of the postseason picture if it can win out.
"I think everyone in the locker room is aware and focused, obviously these home games are extremely important for us,” Shriver said. “There's a quick turnaround, but I think everyone will be ready and if other guys need to step in and take spots, I feel like we have full confidence in pretty much everyone in the locker room and I think we'll be ready on Wednesday."
*New York Cosmos - 55 points, 4 games left
*FC Edmonton - 47 points, 5 games left
*Indy Eleven - 45 points, 5 games left
Minnesota United FC - 38 points, 3 games left
Tampa Bay Rowdies - 37 points, 5 games left
Carolina RailHawks - 37 points, 4 games left
Miami FC - 36 points, 4 games left
Rayo OKC - 35 points, 4 games left
Fort Lauderdale Strikers - 32 points, 4 games left
Ottawa Fury FC - 29 points, 4 games left
Jacksonville Armada - 23 points, 5 games left
Puerto Rico FC - 21 points**, 4 games left
*-Clinched one of four playoff spots
**-Did not play in spring season
Oct. 12: vs. Rayo OKC
Oct. 15: at Indy Eleven
Oct. 22: vs. Minnesota United FC
Oct. 29: at Puerto Rico FC