“First of all, good morning everybody,” New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps joyfully said to open the postgame news conference.
With seven games pitting North American Soccer League teams against Major League Soccer teams on the menu Wednesday for the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup, the Carolina RailHawks had all eyes on them as they hosted the Revolution deep into the night – and into Thursday morning – at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Despite a late surge by Carolina during the second half of overtime, former RailHawks goalkeeper Brad Knighton secured the Revolution’s 1-0 victory and matchup with fellow MLS side Real Salt Lake in the fifth round.
“If Brad isn’t as good as he was tonight, we’re probably in penalty kicks right now,” Heaps said.
Despite another scoreless regulation, the RailHawks’ fifth of the past six games, coach Colin Clarke was encouraged.
“Very, very, proud of the team tonight. The response (to the goal) was superb, and we thoroughly deserved to win the game,” Clarke said. “I thought we were by far the better team.”
Fresh off a 4-1 NASL loss Saturday to Indianapolis, the RailHawks held their own during the first half against the Revolution with each team having seven shots and one on target.
New England’s offense was energized during the second half and the first overtime, thanks to the addition of two players with national team caps: Sierra Leone’s Kei Kamara and the United States’ Lee Nguyen.
However, it was Zachary Herivaux, who found the winner, pounding a ball from the top of the 18-yard box past Carolina goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald during the 103rd minute.
Trailing the Revolution 20-10 in shots after the goal, Carolina amped up the pressure as Jonny Orlando, Alex Pérez and Billy Schuler spearheaded a 6-2 run in shots.
“It was a tale of two teams taking their punches,” Heaps said. “We were fortunate to get the goal.”
The RailHawks dropped to 6-6 all-time vs. the MLS in the U.S. Open Cup.
“We take it seriously. It’s a very, very, important competition,” Clarke said. “It means something. I’d love to win it with someone who’s not MLS.”
NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson was in attendance for the match, and he said he wanted to see “the giant killers” in person, referencing the RailHawks’ traditional success in Cup play.
Carolina will be off until July 2, when it will open the fall season with a trip to Minnesota before hosting Tampa Bay and the English Premier League’s West Ham the ensuing week.