This season promised to be a clean slate for the Carolina RailHawks with a new owner (Steven Malik) that could help land players like Omar Bravo, a Mexican international who could score goals and connect with the Triangle’s Latino population.
But for the fourth straight season, there will be no postseason in Cary.
Carolina defeated Minnesota United 1-0 in its home finale Saturday night, but Rayo OKC eliminated the RailHawks by winning its game against Fort Lauderdale.
Coach Colin Clarke called the result “bittersweet” after learning that Oklahoma City had won, but noted that it was “probably our best performance of the year in many ways.”
WHAT COULD’VE BEEN?
A lack of consistency – the RailHawks only strung together back-to-back wins once since a four-game streak to open the year – was ultimately their downfall.
“You can’t look back ‘If only.’ Every team can do that,” Clarke said. “There’s a lot of results that have gone haven’t gone our way … and we needed just one more (goal). It wasn’t meant to be.”
Athens Drive High and N.C. State alumnus Nazmi Albadawi added: “There’s a lot of points we look back at that we gave away that we probably shouldn’t have … You think of a couple games, I’m not going to call any out specifically, that stick out.”
Albadawi is correct.
The RailHawks scored what appeared to be a stoppage time game-winning goal in Oklahoma on Oct. 2, only to allow Oklahoma City to tie the score seconds later.
Ten days later, with a jumbled starting lineup, Carolina dropped a late goal to Oklahoma City and lost 1-0. It wasn’t until then, with only three games left on the schedule, that the RailHawks didn’t control their own destiny.
When asked if he planned on being brought back next year, Clarke motioned to the back corner of the room where general manager Curt Johnson stood mute.
“I’d love to be back. I’m enjoying what I do,” Clarke said. “This club is going places and you know, we’ve had our past, and it’s gone, and we forget about that, and everything is positive, and we’re moving forward, and I want to be a part of that.”
Clarke has been the head coach since 2012 and amassed a 53-52-37 regular-season record.
“We’re starting to put the foundation down for hopefully long-term, and we have a lot of work,” Clarke said
HOME, SWEET HOME
The 8,086 fans in attendance Saturday night set a regular-season record, three months removed from 10,125 supporters packing WakeMed Soccer Park for an international friendly against England’s West Ham United.
The average attendance for league matches cracked 5,057 and the cumulative attendance for NASL matches was 80,912, both of which are records for the RailHawks.
As is tradition, the team announced its end-of-season awards at the home finale.
Defensive Player of the Year: Brian Sylvestre – goalkeeper had five shutouts.
Leadership Award: Austin da Luz – midfielder started 24 games and was named NASL Player of the Month in April.
WakeMed Unsung Hero Award: Steven Miller – defender made NASL Team of the Week twice.
Offensive Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player: Nazmi Albadawi – midfielder set NASL record for assists in a single season with 10, had passing accuracy of 80.8 percent and created 47 chances (second in NASL).
Summit Hospitality Community Service Awards: Connor Tobin, Nazmi Albadawi, Steven Miller – logged the most community appearance hours on the team.