Story by Hal Goodtree. Photos by Tom Mousseau for CaryCitizen.
Cary, NC – In 2011, Cary’s own Carolina RailHawks were the darlings of the North American Soccer League. But the dream of a championship came to an end Saturday night at Wake Med Soccer Park with a loss to arch-rivals the Minnesota Stars.
The Brilliant Season
The RailHawks had it all during the regular season: a league-leading 17-8-3 record, the league’s leading scorer (Etienne Barbara), four first-team all-stars. At one point, the had a 10-game winning streak.
The Early Exit
The NASL has a two-game format for each round of the playoffs. Most total points wins.
The RailHawks received a bye in the first round thanks to their league-leading record.
Their first post-season game was a semi-final match against the Stars in Minnesota. The ‘Hawks lost 1-0 on a late goal.
The RailHawks had a chance to come back at home, but needed to win by two goals.
Saturday night’s game was a hard-fought, high-scoring contest. At the end of regulation time, the ‘Hawks led 4-3.
That left the semi-final series knotted at 4 aggregate goals a piece, sending last night’s match into extra-time.
The teams played two 15-minute extra-time periods without scoring, sending the match into penalty kicks.
Minnesota converted all 5 of its penalty kicks. But the Stars goalie managed to block one of Carolina’s attempts, ending the match, the series and the season.
Contributing photographer Tom Mousseau of All-Star Photo was at Saturday night’s NASL semi-final playoff match for CaryCitizen.