After conceding their largest single game goal differential of the year a week ago, the Carolina RailHawks bounced back to achieve their largest North American Soccer League victory – and also their first league win since April 23 – of the year, thrashing the Tampa Bay Rowdies 4-1 Saturday night at home.
“We say, ‘Work hard, keep the ball and results will come,’ ” team captain Nazmi Albadawi said. “We dealt with adversity. It felt great to get a win in front of our home crowd before Tuesday.”
The four goals scored by Carolina (5-5-2) surpassed the three goals in its previous seven NASL games.
After 572 scoreless minutes with the Jacksonville Armada during the Spring Season following his time as the United Soccer League’s Golden Boot winner in 2015, Matt Fondy didn’t take long to win the hearts of RailHawks fans. In the 11th minute, a sprinting Fondy swept across the 18-yard box to head home an Albadawi corner kick to give Carolina its first lead in league play since April 23, which was also the last time the RailHawks had played the Rowdies.
“(Fondy is) awesome,” Albadawi said. “Not only is he a hard worker, but he’s hard to play against. He’s big, he’s fast and he’s strong. He’s a nightmare for center backs to play against.”
The comfort of being ahead lasted only nine minutes as Tampa Bay (4-4-5) forward Georgi Hristov pounded an equalizing penalty kick into the bottom left corner in the 20th minute.
Fondy’s impact continued into the second half as he earned two penalties for the RailHawks within the first 15 minutes of the second stanza. Brian Shriver and Nazmi Albadawi each converted the kicks.
In the 71st minute, Carolina put the game to bed when Albadawi launched a ball from the top of the 18-yard box just inside the left pipe to bring the lead to 4-1.
They said it
“I’ll be honest; it’s not been an easy time,” Carolina coach Colin Clarke said. “It’s not about me or the assistant coaches; it’s about the players when they step out onto the field. They worked hard for each other and put the work in. When they do that, their ability shines through.”
▪ All three of Brian Shriver’s goals in 2016 have come against Florida teams: two penalty kicks against Tampa Bay and a header versus Fort Lauderdale on May 7.
▪ Rowdies midfielder Joe Cole played 71 minutes while his former club that he made 157 appearances with – the English Premier League’s West Ham United – practiced on the adjacent field.
▪ It’s (finally) Miller Time: Steven Miller made his first RailHawks appearance of the year after being recalled from a two-game loan spell with the Tulsa Roughnecks (USL). Miller had been unfit to play after suffering a concussion in the preseason friendly against Deportivo Toluca FC.
▪ Midfielder Freddy Adu made his first appearance of the year for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, coming on in the 71st minute.
▪ Albadawi is tied for the league lead in assists with six (37.5 percent of the RailHawks’ NASL goals). He had 61 touches and 35 completed passes Saturday night.