03 August 2008

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Carolina Railhawks

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Carolina Railhawks
1 August 2008
Cary, NC
Wake Med Soccer Park
Partly cloudy, balmy, perfect field conditions
TV: Fox Soccer Channel

It was a big week for Carolina in the front office. Gone was Connoley Edozien, last year’s leading scorer and stylish poster child. In comes fading El Salvadorian star Ronald Cerritos and rising Mexican estrella Eddie Gutierrez (click for more details). National television cameras were rolling, skies were clear, a much needed three points for the 9th place Railhawks , lovely night for optimism and football.

After the most soulful rendition of “O Canada” this commentator has ever heard, it took less than one minute for Vancouver to score. Carolina kicked off, passed backwards (as is their wont), Low lost possession at left back, and gave up a foul deep into the right attacking third. Vancouver threw five players into the box (five of them 6’1” or bigger, with two verifiable monstros at 6’5” 220+ pounds), the ball bounced around, got rammed back across the front of goal, one nil, Bob’s your uncle. Carolina had the pleasure of being the first team in USL-1 to kick off twice within 75 seconds this year.

Nine minutes later, the groans were even more audible from the directors box. After right wing Fusilier rashly fouled in the depth of the ‘Caps’ tidal surge, McClellan bobbled the threatening cross, no ‘Hawks could move with so many huge standing waves around, 2-0. Bob’s your uncle and your father.

Things weren’t too bad for Carolina after that. Though they continued with their nasty habit of wasting free kicks and corners and their forwards have lost the confidence to take people on with the meager service they get, they looked pretty good for long stretches. Vancouver never really got much going, depending on the physicality of their forwards and pace of their defenders to generate and close openings. Santiago Fusilier gave some real delight to the home fans with an 18th minute strike from outside the area. A thing of beauty, artfully lobbed over the ‘keeper, dipping just below the bar, diving into goal over the head of an outstretched Whitecap. Lovely stuff and well deserved. Hope sprung. It was mortally wounded in the 35th minute.

For the third time in two home games, the ‘Hawks gifted a goal that left McClellan with no chance. Low’s one time pass to retreating center midfielder Solle (who had a disaster) was intercepted, Segovia was exposed holding a high Chilean line, and Eduardo Sebrango didn’t need his tiocubano to help him make it 3-1. The sound of air leaving a roof-less stadium is very odd indeed.

Though all was lost, the referee soon completed his rightful duty as an entertainment manager and expelled Vancouver’s incredibly pacy right back Takashi Hirano in the 43rd minute for a blistering two footed tackle on Dombrowski. Carolina made no use of the ensuing freekick or man advantage until the 83rd minute.

After Zuzga, Lemons, Curfman, Worthen and Antoniuk had been thrown into the mix for Norkus, Diallo, Fusilier, Dombrowski, ,and Solle, Nuñez pulled back a deserved goal for Carolina. As the game inexorably moved to its end, Vancouver held on to their three points like barnacles to a boat. Carolina screwed away several chances, hit the post, were denied by good saves, and their own lack of je ne sais qua.

They may be under some kind of curse. This is the thirteenth winless game on the trot. They have never once won after being a goal down and have only scored 3 goals in their last 5 games. Why then does the game get handed to the opposition within 60 seconds? Is there no idea of what to do at the very beginning of the game, much less adjust to it as it gets increasingly complicated? One wonders how this is going to translate to the new signings. Bienvenidos amigos, nececitamos ayuda. No le pasan la pelota al otro equipo, por favor.

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