Nacho Novo was the star of the night as the Carolina RailHawks showed they were no pretender in the NASL championship race, trouncing the visiting San Antonio Scorpions 3-2.
The win secured Carolina’s (5-3-6, W-L-T) spot at third in the NASL standings – for at least one more week – with Minnesota United FC and the Indy Eleven nipping at their heels.
After an uneventful (and sloppy) opening to the match, the offensive floodgates poured open for the RailHawks, who stunned the Scorpions (4-6-4, W-L-T) with a quick couple of goals in the 22nd (Hlavaty) and 24th (Novo) minutes.
When San Antonio came out of the halftime break carrying all the momentum, Novo nullified any hopes of a comeback attempt, burying a penalty kick into the bottom left corner in the 67th minute.
Rafael Castillo’s penalty kick in the 75th minute shortened the Carolina lead to 3-2, but it was too little, too late
In the 22nd minute, Novo launched a beautiful cross that curved precisely to the right boot of Neil Hlavaty, whose one-timer over San Antonio’s Jon Kempin gave Carolina the offensive momentum they needed for the remainder of the match. The assist was only Novo’s second in 2015, but arguably the most memorable connection Carolina has had all year.
“Kupono gave me a good ball ... I made a move and controlled it inside and saw Neil (Hlavaty) and tried pulling the ball for him,” Novo said. “It was a fantastic finish.”
They said it
Novo on if there was any debate on who would take the penalty kick: “Nobody can take the ball from me … I always say ‘yes’ in that opportunity,” Novo said.
Three who mattered
Novo, Carolina: After being a non-factor in Carolina’s first three fall season matches, the savvy veteran forward left his mark with two goals and a breathtaking assist. Each proved to be crucial in the RailHawks securing three points.
“Nacho is a very good player who plays at a very high level, he’s very good at scoring goals, he works hard, and he’s smart player and he showed that again tonight,” RailHawks coach Colin Clarke said. “We need him on the field, we miss him when he’s not there.”
Rafael Castillo, San Antonio: Castillo was heavily involved all game for the Scorpions, threading the needle with a set piece assist in the 35th minute and knocking in a penalty kick later in the second half.
Akira Fitzgerald, Carolina: Despite allowing two goals for the second week in a row, Fitzgerald was a brick wall for the majority of the match. Fitzgerald recorded nine saves, including a diving stop in the 94th minute to prevent a potential equalizer.
- Carolina RailHawks coach Colin Clarke went with a 4-4-2 formation after using a 4-5-1 in Carolina’s first three fall season matches. Simone Bracalello and Novo were up top to start the match.
- The RailHawks earned a revenge win, having fallen to the Scorpions 1-0 on May 9th.
- Saturday night was the first time Carolina had recorded multiple goals in a match since July 4th against Minnesota.
- Carolina was without star winger Tiyi Shipalane, who is recovering from an injury suffered in Indianapolis.
- “Hlavaty worked his socks off on the right side, not his natural position, and got a goal out of it,” Clarke said. “Not putting a timeline on (Shipalane’s) status, we’ll wait until next week and see.”