Late penalty kick dooms RailHawks

The Carolina RailHawks, unbeatable for 24 consecutive home games over a year and a half, have now lost three of their last four at WakeMed Soccer Park to open the fall season.

This one was perhaps the most painful.

Edmonton’s Horace James was tripped in the box in the final minute of stoppage time by Carolina’s Austen King.

Neil Hlavaty took the penalty kick, beating the RailHawks’ Akira Fitzgerald, and the visitors went back to Canada with a 3-2 win Saturday night.

“Winning is a tough habit to break, and so is losing,” Carolina forward Zack Schilawski said. “We just need to clear our heads a little bit – pyschologically, mentally.”

The loss came in spite of two goals by Schilawski, one of the hottest players in the NASL.

He has six in his last four games and is now tied for second in the league on the year.

“I’d rather be winning,” he said.

Schilawski drew and converted a penalty in the 75th minute to tie it 2-2.

Edmonton (4-8-4) had scored two unanswered second-half since Schilawski’s first goal came in the 12th minute, where he headed in a cross from Jordan Graye.

Schilawski’s future with the team is uncertain. The Cary High and Wake Forest product will be attending law school at UNC-Chapel Hill this week.

“I will work with Zack and I’ve told him. I obviously don’t want to get in the way of law school and that decision of his. We wish him good luck. He’s been great for us,” RailHawks coach Colin Clarke said. “We’ll see where it all pans out. We’d love to have him here. We’d love to keep him around for the rest of the year. If that can be worked out where it’s not an encroachment on his work with school, then we’ll make that happen.”

Unorganized play along the back line led to Edmonton’s two goals in the second half, erasing a 1-0 deficit.

King was playing as a replacement for Daniel Scott, who received two yellow cards in the previous game, a 4-3 loss at home to Tampa Bay.

Carolina (6-8-2) has now allowed seven goals in the last two games. It was Edmonton’s second road win in 2014.

Clarke said he was “bitterly disappointed to lose the way we did at the last minute.”

Both Lance Laing’s goal (scrum in the box, 53rd minute) and Ritchie Jones’ (scissor kick volley, 65th minute) started deep in the box. Edmonton pressured more in the second half and took advantage of bad giveaways.

“If people give good players time and the ball, they’ll get beat,” Edmonton coach Colin Miller said.

Clarke insists the team could bring in new players to bolster a final push for the NASL playoffs. Carolina dropped to sixth in the NASL and only four make the postseason.

“It’s still in our hands. If we win our games, we will get to the playoffs. It’s just a little bit tougher,” Clarke said.

Akira Fitzgerald returned to his spot as goalkeeper after Scott Goodwin has manned the position since the start of the U.S. Open Cup.

Cary native and Panther Creek High product Gabe Latigue, a recent signee, was brought in during stoppage time to make his NASL debut.

Blake: 919-460-2606; Follow @SWakeSports on Twitter for RailHawks coverage