RailHawks torpedo Jacksonville, 4-0

Posted May 30, 2015

RailHawks Neil Hlavaty celebrating his goal.

The Carolina RailHawks swooped down to Florida and took out a week’s worth of on- and off-field frustrations on the Jacksonville Armada, pitching a near-perfect game on the Baseball Grounds of Community First Park on their way to a 4-0 win over the North American Soccer League (NASL) expansion side.

The RailHawks’ four first-half goals were more than Carolina has scored in an entire game this season, and the display recalled the five goal second-half performance against the New York Cosmos last September.

Ironically, Carolina ran out a seemingly defensive-minded starting XI with Leo Osaki getting the start over Mark Anderson and Dzenan Catic, on loan from the Philadelphia Union, in the lineup instead of Nacho Novo, the team’s co-leader in goals.

The Armada obliged by holding the bulk of early possession. However, in the 9th minute Carolina midfielder Nazmi Albadawi delivered a pinpoint chip pass into the box that found the cranium of defender Conor Tobin. Tobin’s running header slipped past Jacksonville goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo for the early 1-0 lead.

It’s the first time the Armada have failed to score first in a home game this season, which proved a harbinger of more ignominy to come. In the 38th minute, a loose ball found its way to midfielder Neil Hlavaty unmarked atop the 18. Hlavaty calmly delivered a curler into the postage stamp for a 2-0 Carolina advantage.

Three minutes later, an Armada foul gave Osaki a free kick from 20 yards out. Osaki, a fine dead ball specialist, slotted his attempt past an ill-positioned Jacksonville wall and into the lower right corner of the net for a 3-0 lead.

In the 43rd minute, Pascal Millien was whistled for a penalty after taking Osaki down in the area. Anderson, who came on in the 36th minute for an injured Albadawi, converted the ensuing penalty kick for his first goal as a RailHawk.

That’s all the scoring the RailHawks would both need and get, as the second half became an aerobic exercise of running out the clock in front of 8,573 onlookers. Jacksonville kept up some offensive pressure, but Carolina’s back line held with the significant assistance of goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald, who was credited with four saves for the match.

The home loss is Jacksonville’s first since joining the NASL this year—the Armada had three wins out their three previous home matches. Meanwhile, it’s the RailHawks’ second consecutive road win and their second straight clean sheet in NASL play since the return of Fitzgerald on loan from New York City FC.

The RailHawks (3-4-2, 13 pts.) will remain in the top three of the NASL standings thanks to tonight’s victory. Depending on other outcomes around the league, Carolina could rise into a tie for second place in the league table.

Carolina returns to Cary next Saturday, June 6 when it closes out its NASL spring season by hosting the high-flying Minnesota United FC at WakeMed Soccer Park.


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