In soccer, draws often are referred to as either being a good tie or a bad tie.
However, there was no psychological loser when the Carolina RailHawks and West Ham United exited the pitch after their international friendly Tuesday night after a thrilling 2-2 stalemate.
For West Ham, it was 90 minutes to sharpen its skills in front of a battery of members of the Claret and Blue Army that refused to stop cheering and leave its seats as mass lightning overtook the area during the 63rd minute.
“It was good to see that away from home we had so many fans. We enjoyed it,” West Ham manager Slaven Bilić said. “It was a good tie … I put the kids in at the end to enjoy first-team football in front of basically a full stadium.”
For the Carolina RailHawks, it was the biggest crowd in team history – 10,125 fans to be exact – at WakeMed Soccer Park as fans from all over the East Coast drove in to see the team’s greatest publicity stunt.
“Delighted. It was a good, competitive game; I thought our boys done well against a good team,” Carolina coach Colin Clarke said. “We’ve gained a lot of confidence … It was hard to stop screaming.
“This is a historic, first-time, Premier League club and not one from the bottom of the table. They’ve got a storied history all the way back.”
At halftime, the RailHawks announced arguably the most substantial signing in the club’s 10-year history – Mexican superstar Omar Bravo – to reel in fans for future North American Soccer League matches.
In the statistics books, the RailHawks accomplished a feat not many expected, a lead against the seventh-place finisher in the English Premier League.
In the 14th minute, Drew Beckie launched in a cross for a streaking Matt Fondy that West Ham defender Winston Reid poked into the net while trying to make the interception.
The stadium erupted, but the Hammers – and most notably Reid – didn’t take the deficit lightly, coming back to score four minutes later as Andy Carroll laid off a give-and-go ball to Reid for a redeeming goal.
West Ham doubled its goal count in the 21st when Carroll slotted a Sofiane Fegouhli grounded cross past Carolina goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.
Despite not having any of its players score during the first half, Carolina’s offense excelled in the counterattack with Fondy and Brian Shriver playing up top together. The 4-4-2 formation with the duo of Fondy and Shriver also was used during Saturday’s 4-1 league win after a 4-5-1 was used during Carolina’s seven-game winless streak.
After a 40-minute delay for lightning, both teams made a plethora of substitutions that shook up the dynamic of the match when play resumed in the 63rd minute.
In the 67th minute, Guatemalan international Marvin Ceballos scored his first goal in orange and grey, smashing a penalty into the top right corner while West Ham goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel guessed left.
“Cheap penalty,” Bilić said. “Unlucky, really.”
The atmosphere of the sell-out crowd left a lasting memory for RailHawks team captain Nazmi Albdawi.
“It’s my hometown. I’ve been coming to these games since I was a kid,” he said, “so to see that kind of atmosphere on our home field and in my community means a lot to me personally and the team as well.”
Omar Bravo officially announced
There was no surprise that Bravo, who has 65 appearances with the Mexican national team and is Guadalajara’s all-time leading scorer, would be the “surprise” player announced as Carolina’s latest signing. However, when he came out of the tunnel in full uniform, it made one wonder if Bravo, who clinched a Supercopa MX victory with a goal two days earlier, would make his debut against West Ham.
In the 80th minute, the debut came, much to the pleasure of the home supporters.
“He’s a class player and a class act,” Clarke said. “Looking forward to getting him on the field and having options going forward.”
With Fondy being added last week, the options are there.
But for Clarke, “It’s a great problem.”