When their top scorer left with an injury 30 minutes into the game, the Carolina RailHawks’ offense sputtered for most of a 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday.
Nacho Novo, who had a goal in each of the first two RailHawks games, succumbed to a groin injury that had been bothering him since preseason.
“Nacho is somebody up front who works hard, somebody who makes very, very good runs. Someone who can free you up just by being smart,” RailHawks coach Colin Clarke said. “Once we lost that, it certainly didn’t help us.”
The Silverbacks (1-0-2) got their first win of the North American Soccer League’s spring season with the win.
Three who mattered
Blake Wagner, Carolina: The left back was already having a good game when he one-timed a goal in the 82nd minute that had been punched out by Atlanta goalkeeper C.J. Cochran.
Mark Anderson, Carolina: After struggling through his first two games as a RailHawk, the offseason addition to the midfield snapped out of his funk, providing several good scoring chances in the first half.
Paul Black, Atlanta: The Silverbacks’ left back was kept busy as the RailHawks kept trying to attack his side with Tiyi Shipalane and others.
Atlanta defender Kyle Miller took a risk when he sent a long ball towards goal in the 68th minute, but teammate Jonathan Okafor made a clean run into the box and volleyed in a goal to take a 2-0 lead.
The two teams were tied 0-0 at halftime.
“The second goal was fantastic,” Atlanta coach Gary Smith said. “When the ball goes wide, their job is to get into a dangerous area, and Jon did his job.”
▪ In the RailHawks’ first two games, Shipalane took the game over in the first 20 minutes and put several chances on goal – far more than he had later in those matches. But Atlanta made sure to double-team him early to stop the threat.
“It’s tactically part of dealing with some of the more effective players on any team,” Smith said. “What it takes is discipline (and) a huge amount of physical effort.”
▪ The RailHawks (1-1-1) trailed for the first time all season when Atlanta’s Shaka Bangura scored a goal in the 48th minute to put Atlanta up 1-0. The Silverbacks had sent a cross into the box that deflected to an unmarked Bangura, who was standing just inside the box.
▪ Mamadee Nyepon made his RailHawks debut in the 79th minute. Nyepon, a 22-year-old striker from Greensboro, recently completed his college career at High Point.
They said it
Clarke after his team fell behind: “I don’t think the response was great. I don’t think the quality in the final third was good enough from some of our players who you’re looking to produce that final ball, that final pass. Their goalkeeper wasn’t busy enough.”
The RailHawks will travel to the Indy Eleven on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.