The Carolina RailHawks blasted their way to the top of the NASL standings with a 5-2 victory over the San Antonio Scorpions to delight a home crowd of 6,708 that packed in to WakeMed Soccer Park.
Brian Shriver scored twice to lead the NASL in scoring with five goals this season, while Zach Schilawski also found the net twice and keeper Akira Fitzgerald pulled off some spectacular saves in the seven-goal thriller.
“There were a lot of good goals and a lot of great passing and there’s a lot to be happy about,” said RailHawks coach Colin Clarke. “It’s a great result and any time you score five goals you’ve got to be pleased, but I don’t like the number two that’s also up on the scoreboard. We’ve got a good squad of players and we’ll continue to look to improve.”
A stunning Floyd Franks strike from 25 yards out earned the RailHawks the lead in the 13th minute, but the visiting Scorpions were level seven minutes later. Hans Denisson scored from the penalty spot, sending Akitra Fitzgerald the wrong way after Paul Hamilton had committed a push inside the area.
The hosts regained the lead in the 37th minute when Shriver capitalized on a defensive error, pressurizing Pat Hannigan as he attempted to clear a back pass, and Zach Schilawski pounced to find the empty net.
Three minutes after the break, Shriver scored the RailHawks’ third as Austin Da Luz supplied him with the scoring chance and then with 50 minutes played, Schilawski claimed his second goal of the night with Da Luz again the supplier.
“It’s nice to get that first goal and the pressure is off now,” said Schilawski. “It’s been a good start and that was the objective going in and so far so good. We’ve put ourselves in a good spot.
“It’s really fun to play and I think we’ve got a lot of guys who are willing to work off the ball and do the dirty work and make unselfish runs. We’ve got a lot of different attacking weapons and a good team chemistry.”
Nikola Vaslic pulled San Antonio back into contention when he gathered a rebound after Fitzgerald had parried the ball into his path, but then Scorpions skipper Kevin Harmse was shown a straight red card as he slid into Da Luz.
Fitzgerald was alert to the Scorpions’ refusal to give up home despite being down a man and produced the save of the match after 63 minutes, tipping a fierce drive over his cross bar for a corner and then denied Edin Husic.
Five minutes from time, Shriver wrapped up the scoring, meeting a Brian Ackley cross in front of goal for a simple finish.
Scorpions coach Tim Hankinson said: “We came out and our touch was nervous and they were putting a lot of pressure on us and instead of just playing the ball out we gave the ball away. Until we stop beating ourselves it’s going to be difficult.”
|New York Cosmos||31||14||9||4||1||10|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||20||14||5||5||4||3|
|Minnesota United FC||20||14||6||2||6||2|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||18||14||5||3||6||-2|
|San Antonio Scorpions||10||14||3||1||10||-9|
|San Antonio Scorpions||20||12||6||2||4||4|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||18||12||5||3||4||5|
|Minnesota United FC||14||12||4||2||6||-5|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||8||12||2||2||8||-14|