Carolina RailHawks 2013 Team Preview
The RailHawks were founded in January 2006 and began play in the 2007 season of the United Soccer League First Division. The team was named the RailHawks after a fan competition to name the team. The name RailHawks was derived from the railroad tracks that through Cary, North Carolina and the hawks that are indigenous to the area. The RailHawks played three seasons in the USL First Division before being part of a movement that saw half of the league split and form the North American Soccer League. The RailHawks, while lacking a playoff championship, are still a very decorated team, having won the Southern Derby (2007, 2008, 2009), the Copa Tecate (2009), the NASL Conference (2010), and the NASL Regular Season Title (2011).
- Name: Wake Med Soccer Park
- Built: 2002
- Capacity: 10,000
Owner: Traffic Sports USA is the ownership group for the Carolina RailHawks. The Group bought the RailHawks after the 2010 season literally saving the RailHawks brand and keeping the team together to compete in the 2011 season and beyond. Traffic Sports USA soon named Curt Johnson as the President of the club. Johnson was previously the General Manager of the Kansas City Wizards from 1999 to 2006 and is no stranger to the Raleigh area since he attended NC State University from 1987 to 1991.
After the departure of head coach Martin Rennie in 2011, Johnson headed up the search for the RailHawks new coach. His search led him to Colin Clarke. Clarke is an individual that has nearly done it all in the soccer world, he has played for teams such as Southampton, Queens Park Rangers and Peterborough United and even went to the 1986 World Cup with Northern Ireland, where he scored a goal against Spain. As a Manager Colin Clarke has been all over the United States, he coached the Richmond Kickers, San Diego Flash, FC Dallas, Virginia Beach Mariners, the Puerto Rican National Team and the Puerto Rico Islanders. Colin Clarke led the Puerto Rico Islanders to a title in 2011 before signing on with the RailHawks. His style of play is an attacking one that is entertaining to watch but he knows when he has to be practical in games, as he has shown in his upsets over the LA Galaxy with both the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Carolina RailHawks.
Players of Note:
Captain: Kupono Low is the longest serving member of the RailHawks and as such he will be donning the captains armband yet again as he tries to lead the RailHawks to a title this season. Low will no doubt be looking to Nick Zimmerman this season with hopes that he will repeat his stellar form and goal-scoring prowess that he showed last season. Zimmerman scored fifteen goals in 2013, good enough for third on the goal-scoring chart of the 2012 NASL season. Tiyi Shipalane will be another major factor this season, the South African scored five goals and registered five assists in the regular season last year with many of them coming after the 80th minute. Colin Clarke will definitely have the speedy winger in his plans, however, it remains to be seen if Shipalane will be used as a starter or an off the bench game changer like in 2012.
The RailHawks inaugural season saw an average attendance of 4,962. The attendance then dropped continuously the next three years hitting a bottom point of a 2,241 average attendance during the 2010 season. During the RailHawks first NASL season in 2011 the average attendance went back up to 3,353 and increased further during the 2012 season to 3,883.
The RailHawks’ supporters group, the Triangle Soccer Fanatics, are a passionate group of fans that sit in section 309, “The Depot”, and give their all every game to support the RailHawks. W. Jarrett Campbell founded the Triangle Soccer Fanatics and has a major place in RailHawks history, as he is the one who named the team. The Fanatics can be found on Facebook and have a website that is a work in progress at http://trisoccerfan.com.
The sponsor of the RailHawks home stadium is Wake Med and the team’s jersey sponsors are Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, AT&T and Dunn Physical Therapy. Also in 2013, Adidas will be the RailHawks official equipment provider for the RailHawks for the first time in team history.
The RailHawks started out 2012 extremely slowly, recording the organizations worst start to a season to date. However, the RailHawks managed their first win of the season in a U.S. Open Cup game against P.S.A. Elite. That win got the monkey off the team’s back and the RailHawks went on a steady climb back up the table of the NASL. The RailHawks finished their regular season in fourth place and played their way into the semi finals of the NASL Playoffs where they we knocked out by the eventual champions, the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The 2013 Season:
Over the offseason the RailHawks managed to retain fifteen of their players from the 2012 season. Six of those players managed to play over one thousand minutes last year, and many of them were starters and key players for the RailHawks. Captain Kupono Low, Austen King, Jordan Graye, Austin da Luz, Floyd Franks, Breiner Ortiz, Tiyi Shipalane, Nick Zimmerman, Brian Shriver, Brian Ackley and Zack Schilawski were all prominent forces for the RailHawks in 2012 and they accounted for forty-seven of the RailHawks’ fifty-eight goals last season.
The real area of concern is the RailHawks’ defense. Last year the RailHawks allowed forty-six goals last season, tied for most in the regular season. Now with Gale Agbossoumonde gone to Toronto FC, the RailHawks will have to find a solid replacement for the U.S. International. Signs point to Sam Stockley and Austen King being the pair that team up in the middle but Colin Clarke may add some more players before the season kicks off in April.
The most promising factor that this RailHawks team has heading into this season, is the fact that the team has fifteen returning players, a number almost unheard of when it comes to returning players in the second division. Last season Tampa Bay showed how important it was to retain the core of a team, as they were able to build off of their success in 2011 and ended up winning the title in 2012. The 2013 RailHawks team will be an exciting one to watch, as it seems Colin Clarke is just adding more pieces to what was already an entertaining team to watch. This could very well be the start of a team that Colin Clarke can make good on his promise to deliver a championship to Carolina.