On paper, it was a great chance for the Carolina RailHawks to pick up win No. 1.
But what happened on the field was anything but promising.
Facing an equally hapless FC Edmonton on Sunday, the RailHawks were shut out 3-0 with all three goals scored in the second half by Shaun Saiko of the opposition.
Carolina (0-3-4. W-L-T) has played more games than any North American Soccer League team, yet is one of two without a win.
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The next four games – spread across four of the next five Saturdays – are against the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the league – the Puerto Rico Islanders (3-1-1) and Minnesota Stars FC (2-0-3).
Giving up goals: The RailHawks are at minus-6 in goal differential this year, and Sunday’s loss to Edmonton (1-3-1) was their third time in which they have given up three goals or more in a game.
Do you want to guess when the RailHawks first gave up three goals in last year’s regular season? The answer is never.
Anemic offense: An underrated part of Carolina’s woes has been the inconsistent game-to-game productivity on offense. Coach Colin Clarke said in the preseason that he wants his team to be possession-based, but the team has not done well in that department.
The RailHawks have two wild – if disappointing – home draws, the 4-4 contest against Atlanta and 3-3 against Fort Lauderdale, but aside from those games it has been shut out three times and have two other games with just one goal.
Waiting it out: While the RailHawks have started some different personnel in the attack, the beleagured back line has remained almost the same.
Center back John Krause, left back Kupono Low, goalkeeper Ray Burse and holding midfielder Amir Lowery are four defensive players who have played the maximum 630 minutes or close to it (Krause is at 621).
Three back line players who were brought in this offseason have yet to play – the injured Gale Agbossoumonde, 26-year-old center back James Scott Guerva and 24-year-old right back Justin Willis. The recent injury to center back Austen King has prompted the shifting of midfielder Cory Elenio to right back and right back Sam Stockley to center back.
Next games: Carolina is still on the road in the upper part of North America, and will play at Minnesota Saturday night.
The RailHawks will be looking at three straight home games on May 19 (Puerto Rico), June 2 (Puerto Rico) and June 9 (Minnesota). The potential of a winless 11-game start is realistic.