Published: Jul 23, 2011 10:14 PM
Modified: Jul 23, 2011 10:22 PM
CARY - Carolina RailHawks strikers Etienne Barbara and Pablo Campos didn't have to step onto the pitch WakeMed Soccer Park if they didn't want to.
Earlier this month, the North American Soccer League's top scoring duo had an offer to sign with a professional team in Iran as part of a package deal. But after mulling over all the factors, both men turned it down.
The Iranian professional league's loss was the RailHawks' gain Saturday night, as Carolina won 4-1 against FC Edmonton, its franchise-record eighth straight home contest.
Campos broke out of an eight-game slump without a goal to score two and force a third in an own goal, while Barbara, who scored one, snapped his own three-game streak.
"It was a very, very good offer financially," Barbara said. "Money is nice, but you have to be living good. I don't know how living is in Iran, but I know how living is here and I don't think it can be the same."
The RailHawks are living good themselves. Carolina moved to 13-2-2 on the year, and a full 12 points clear of the next-best NASL team.
In the 37th minute, Campos - known more his role as a target man - dribbled around an Edmonton defender, drove down the right flank and buried the one-on-one opportunity.
The play started on a clear from the back line by Cory Miller, who was credited with the assist after Campos won it in the air and made his trek to the goal.
After a chippy first half, where Carolina led 1-0, a fracas between the two sides broke out in the players' tunnel. The two sides combined for five yellow cards and numerous scuffles.
"They think it's a talking game and it's not, it's a playing game," Campos said. "They like to talk, they like to hit you and say you're a terrible player but we don't get into it, we just play."
The previous two meetings with Edmonton had also had some bad blood, seemingly replacing Montreal as the Canadian franchise with bad blood between the RailHawks.
"I wish it was like hockey where we can fight," Barbara said jokingly.
After a pass from Barbara, Campos tallied his eighth goal of the year in the 68th minute, where he jumped over a charging Edmonton goalkeeper to keep the play alive.
It was Barbara's eighth assist of the season.
Campos tried to find Barbara in the 81st minute. Instead, Edmonton defender Paul Hamilton came sliding in to cut off the pass, only to knock it into the net for an own goal.
Two minutes after Edmonton narrowed the deficit to 3-1 in the 84th minute on a Shaun Saiko goal, Barbara found himself all alone on a breakaway.
Barbara charged right at goalkeeper Rein Baart before blasting a close-range shot into the far, top corner for his 15th goal in 17 games.
"I needed a goal," Barbara said. "It's good to be back."
In a season where not much had gone wrong, the team was coming off a relatively lackluster road trip, where it had settled for one tie (at Edmonton) and one loss.
Getting the home win not only gave the team its first three-point decision since its 10-game win streak was snapped, it was also the first win after captain Brad Rusin was transferred to a first-division team in Denmark.
Coach Martin Rennie said his side was motivated to prove that they could still be as dominant. The team's conditioning, he said, is a big reason why he thinks they can continue at their torrid pace.
"We train in the morning when it's burning hot and I'd be amazed if there's a fitter team than us in the whole country - and I mean the whole country not just our league," Rennie said. "You look at the end of the game, we're winning 4-1 and we've got three guys running 50 yards to go close him down. You don't get that on a normal team."