With the 2014 season quickly approaching us and with the 2014 World Cup In Brazil starting in June, soccer in this country will sure to be in the spotlight. While the US Mens National Team and MLS may have names that people recognize, the North American Soccer League (NASL) may be new territory for existing fans of soccer as well as new fans to the game. The name the New York Cosmos is surely familiar to existing fans of the game and while many are now starting to realize that the team is back and making noise, I often get asked the same type of question by fans who are intrigued by the NASL -> who do the Cosmos play? What teams are in the NASL? Where does the NASL get their talent from?
In 2013 I myself at times struggled with those questions, but after a half a season of getting to know the teams, this year I wanted to do something to assist fans who may still have those questions in 2014. Therefore from now til the beginning of the season, I will be doing posts on CosmosSoccerFan.com summarizing the other teams that the Cosmos will be playing in the NASL. I’ll try to bring you specific details about the club, their players, who was added this year, who was lost and other interesting things about their fan base or the club in general. I will leave these posts on my blog and will update them when significant things occur to those clubs. Further when the Cosmos have an upcoming match with those clubs, you can come to these entries to get a sense of who is on that opposing team and who you should be watching.
THE 2013 SEASON
Today I will profile my first team, the Carolina Railhawks. The Railhawks finished second in the NASL fall 2013 season right behind the NY Cosmos in second place. The Railhawks play in Wakemed Soccer Park in Carey, North Carolina. Some may argue that Wakemed Park is the highest quality soccer field currently in the NASL. While capacity is 10,000 people in Wakemed, the team managed to average right around 5,000 fans during the fall 2013 season.
DEPARTURE OF PLAYERS
2014 will be an interesting season for the Railhawks given the success they had in 2013. The payroll will be somewhat limited for the team this year. As a result, this led to the departure of 2013’s NASL leading scorer Brian Shriver to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Cosmos fans might remember Shriver as he scored twice during the Railhakws first meeting against the Cosmos in 2013. Shriver was the league’s leading scorer as he scored 15 goals for Carolina in 2013. In addition to losing Shriver, the team also lost Austin da Luz to the USL Pro league as he signed with Orlando City. Austin scored 5 goals for the Railhawks in 2013. That’s 20 goals gone from the roster for 2014. Julius James and Paul Hamilton round out key losses for the Railhawks in 2014.
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2014
That leaves the responsibility of scoring goals to a few notable Railhawk players. Nick Zimmerman finished second in scoring in the NASL in 2012 but sat out the entire 2013 season due to a knee injury. The Railhawks will undoubtedly look to him to go back to his 2012 form and find the back of the net often. Tiyi Shippalane will also be asked to contribute more in the scoring department. The South African midfielder enters his third season with the Railhawks after scoring 3 goals for the team in 2013. Uruguayan Enzo Martinez logged more than 800 minutes in 2013 for the Railhawks after coming to the team on loan from Real Salt Lake. He now been giving a permanent contract and will be called upon to help bolster the Railhawks offense.
PLAYER ADDITIONS FOR 2014
To support these three players, the team was also active in the off season and made some additions. The team added an NASL veteran when they signed Conor Tobin who played the last 2 years with Minneosta United. Tobin comes over with NASL playoff experience as he started five playoff matches for Minnesota United during his 2 years there. Goal keeper Scott Goodwin returns to the team after spending a year playing in Iceland and will look to compete for the starting position that Akira Fitzgerald currently holds. Carolina also added central defender Daniel Scott who played the last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Youth was added to the club when they recently signed 2014 NASL draft pick Daniel Jackson. The young forward was drafted by Real Salt Lake in the 2014 MLS super draft.
While none of these names may have the reputation and statistics to replace Brian Shriver, head coach Colin Clark will look to match youth, veterans and hopefully some diamonds in the rough to compete and grind out one of the four spots in post season play in 2014.
ADDITIONAL INFO ON THE RAILHAWKS
Finally, there may be varying opinions on how the team will do in 2014 given what has happened this off season. However one thing has not changed is that the Railhawks are the only team that have the right to make one distinctive claim. They were the only team in 2013 to hand the NY Cosmos a loss. On August 18th, the Railhawks dominated the Cosmos 3-0 behind two goals by you guessed it, Brian Shriver. Its worth noting however that later during the season, the Cosmos returned the favor by beating the Railhawks 4-0 in front of their fans at Hofstra University. Danny Szetela, Marcos Senna, Diomar Diaz and Allesandro Noselli all scored for the Cosmos that day.
The Railhawks are supported by the Triangle Soccer Fanatics Supporters Group. Fouded in January of 2010, they are the lone supporters group rooting on the Carolina Railhawks.
Special thanks to Neil Morris, a member of Indy Week, who assisted with contributions to this entry.
The Cosmos will travel to Carolina to play the Railhawks on Saturday May 3rd as well as Saturday September 30th. The Railhawks will be visiting Hofstra only once on Saturday August 2nd.
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