The Carolina RailHawks spoiled the 4th of July holiday fun for AC St. Louis, beating the St. Louisans 2-0 Saturday night at AB Soccer Park before a crowd of 2,100 fans. Carolina also won the season opener between the two teams, and started their five-game roadtrip off in the right fashion by extending their unbeaten streak to seven games in league play.
The RailHawks took an early lead in the 16th minute of the contest when midfielder Joseph Kabwe blasted a 25 yard laser past AC St. Louis goalkeeper Alec Dufty. Dufty had just made a quality save on a David Hayes free kick four minutes earlier, and AC St. Louis had some nice offensive work in the Carolina end of the field from Tim Velten and Mike Ambersley. Zach Bauer, making his first appearance after being out with a foot injury, made a good tackle before the Carolina buildup. Kabwe, a native of Zimbabwe, was assisted by Gregory Richardson on his goal. AC St. Louis had some nice offensive play in the half, including a missed shot at the 25 minute mark and a quality give and go between Gauchinho and Ambersley a few minutes later. Midfielder Brad Stisser was hurt in the 38th minute, and was replaced by former Real Colorado Foxes teammate Chris Salvaggione. Gauchinho shot wide as the half wound down, and Salvaggione made a nice run from the RailHawks corner into the box, but his centering pass was not converted. Mark Bloom added a headed shot, but AC St. Louis went into the locker room at half down 1-0.
I was optimistic starting the second half, as Carolina are not a prolific scoring team, and thought AC St. Louis could at least salvage a point, but Carolina’s defense backline of Greg Shields, Matt Bobo, Mark Schulte and David Hayes stifled everything in front of RailHawks’ keeper Eric Reed. Shortly after intermission, the RailHawks’ Richardson hit the AC St. Louis goalpost, but in the 56th minute, Luke Kreamalmeyer unleashed a hard shot for AC St. Louis that went directly to Reed. Carolina doubled its lead six minutes later, as former University of Cincinnati midfielder Josh Gardner hit a nice left-footed shot that beat Dufty. Gardner was assisted by Kabwe. Dufty made another nice save a few minutes later to hold the score down, but AC St. Louis could not tally despite efforts by Ambersley, a high shot by second half sub Hagop Chirishian that went over the Carolina goal and a long shot by Captain Jack Traynor that sailed wide. AC St. Louis falls to 2-8-2, while the RailHawks climb to 4-2-6. RailHawks’ coach Martin Rennie added after the game that ““we had a good week of training and I saw a lot of improvement. We were able to control the pace of the game and I felt it was a very good win to continue our excellent form on the road.”
New coach Dale Schilly of AC St. Louis has to like the offensive spark of his club, but be disappointed by the finishing. AC St. Louis outshot Carolina 12-8, although only four of the twelve shots were on frame. AC St. Louis also won the battle of corner kicks, 6-4. But AC St. Louis were unable to net, and Carolina’s veteran defense smothered many of AC St. Louis’ opportunities in the Carolina end. Defensively, AC St. Louis missed Dillon Barna, who suffered a broken clavicle at practice Friday morning and is scheduled for surgery Wednesday. His physical game and presence in the air have been a big part of AC St. Louis recent run of shutouts. On the other hand, it was great to see defender Zach Bauer back, and speaking to him after the game, he felt no discomfort in his first game back from a fractured foot. It was great to see Hagop Chirishian get on the pitch and do some positive things, and defender John Lesko played a solid second half as a sub for Tim Velten. Elvir Kafedzic and Alex Titton also subbed into the game for Troy Cole and Mike Ambersley, respectively. I also heard from Brad Stisser’s Mom, Barb, that Brad wasn’t hurt badly after being stretchered off the field in the first half, so that’s great news. I saw Anthony O’Garro after the game in street clothes…..hopefully Anthony will be able to return from injury this week.
Things don’t get easier for the goal-starved AC St. Louis squad, as they travel to Vancouver for a Thursday night tilt with the USSF D2’s toughest defense, and then return Saturday night for a 7:10 pm matchup with the Montreal Impact at AB Soccer Park. Vancouver had another shutout Saturday night, although they were unable to score either. Hopefully the finishing for AC St. Louis will improve and Coach Dale Schilly will get his first win as the head of AC St. Louis this week. GO AC !!!
Finally, I wanted to give a shout out to my friend Mac and his brother Tom, from Syracuse, NY and Mac’s son Robert, who enjoyed the game and were great company, along with my grandson Kane, who was at his first professional soccer game and had a fun time. Thanks to all the players who stopped by after the game for autographs and pictures….including Elvir, Chris, John, Ryan, Alex, Jack, Zach, Alec, Mark and Troy, for making the evening extra special for my grandson. You guys rule !!! And thanks to Kane for spending some days this week with his grandparents — we had fun bicycling, fishing, exploring creeks, watching movies and the World Cup and playing FIFA Soccer 10 on Wii, but I won’t say who caught the most fish or won the most Wii games.