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Carolina Shuts Out Crystal Palace Baltimore 3-0 Friday

The Carolina RailHawks took a big step towards capturing the first-place spot in the NASL Conference with a convincing 3-0 win Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park over the punchless Crystal Palace Baltimore squad.  Coach Martin Rennie’s RailHawks are now only three points behind the NASL Conference leaders, the Vancouver Whitecaps.  The Whitecaps play Sunday at Swangard Stadium against the Puerto Rico Islanders.  The RailHawks are now also only four points behind the streaking Portland Timbers for the fourth USSF D2 playoff position, and have a game in hand.

Rennie changed his backline for Friday’s game, installing newcomer Daniel Woolard, who made 12 appearances with the Chicago Fire between 2007 and 2009, in the back along with Brad Rusin and Kapuno Low.   Low, who has been with the RailHawks since their beginnings in 2007, was making his first start of 2010 for the RailHawks in a season marred by injury, and Rusin has made only 12 appearances for the club.  The trio joined regular Greg Shields as Matt Bobo, David Hayes and Mark Schulte got the night off.  Nic Platter again started in goal for the RailHawks.

Despite three shots by midfielder Daniel Paladini, who scored a brace for Carolina in last week’s loss to the Islanders, the first half ended scoreless.  Jim Cherneski’s Crystal Palace Baltimore squad started a new frontline, as the recently acquired duo of Alan Sanchez from the Real Maryland Monarchs and Romanian Adrian Bumbut started upfront.  The Baltimore club, who already were last in scoring in USSF D2, sent leading-scorer Randi Patterson to Austin more than a month ago and this week also loaned Japanese midfielder Tsuyoshi Yoshitake to the Aztex and released Yakiel Perez. Certainly these changes weren’t going to help an already hapless attack, as the Baltimore side only took four shots in the match compared to fourteen for Carolina.  Baltimore’s current leading scorer, Gary Brooks, did not play.

Carolina’s Paladini finally opened up the scoring in the 47th minute,  taking a backheel pass from Matt Watson to beat Evan Bush in the Baltimore net with a curling shot.  Paladini is on fire, having scored four goals and an assist in his last four outings.  New RailHawk Tom Heinemann, the USL-2 All-League forward who started in the USL-2 Championship win for the Battery over the Richmond Kickers, drew a penalty in the box in the 74th minute.  St. Louisan Heinemann had entered the game in the first half, replacing Etienne Barbara upfront for Carolina.  Scottish forward Allan Russell converted the penalty, and Carolina were up by two goals. 

In the 89th minute, Heinemann again proved his value to his new club.  as his header from Floyd Franks beat Bush to end the night’s scoring and sending the crowd of over 1,600 home happy.  The RailHawks coach certainly was smiling afterwards.   “It’s really nice to get a clean sheet,” said RailHawks head coach Martin Rennie. “It wasn’t the prettiest game in terms of possession, but we put them under a lot of pressure and came up with a big win.”  Perhaps Crystal Palace Baltimore is now the worst team in the league, although they still lead AC St. Louis and Miami FC in points.  But a win is a win is a win, and the RailHawks, with Low back from injury, Paladini en fuego and Russell beginning to score, suddenly look very dangerous.  The addition of Heinemann, a proven goal-scorer, gives them even more attacking depth, and the night off that most of the backliners received can only benefit Carolina down the stretch.   The RailHawks play a friendly against Pumas Morelas on Sunday, with Mexican iconic defender Claudio Suarez to play on Carolina’s backline in the match.  Their next league game is on Saturday September 11th, when they host the Portland Timbers in what should be an intriguing matchup of playoff bound teams.

I feel for the Crystal Palace Baltimore players.   They have given a game effort all year, and have had a decent defense, but the wholesale dismissal of their proven attackers over the last month makes them look very weak, at least on paper.   Hopefully youngsters Sanchez and Bumbut can become a dynamic duo as they play more together.  Young goalkeeper Evan Bush and others have had solid seasons, and deserve better.  Crystal Palace Baltimore, now 6-14-6 with a -21 goal differential, host Vancouver in the first of three consecutive home matches beginning September 11.

Notes:  Not sure why Etienne Barbara, the RailHawks leading scorer, was substituted at the half hour mark….hopefully he wasn’t injured.  CP Baltimore defender Korey Veeder missed this contest and will be absent until September 12  as he plays for the US U-20 Men’s National team in Peru. 

Carolina Starting Lineup:  Platter, Woolard, Shields, Rusin, Low, Watson, Paladini, Lowery, Franks, Russell, Barbara  Subs Used:  Heinemann, Gardner, Elenio, Gilkerson

CP Baltimore Startng Lineup:  Bush, Robson, Pejic, Nisimura, Marshall, Texeira, Lader, Fusilier,Mbuta, Sanchez, Bumbut  Subs Used:  Neto, Healey

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