Published: Jan 22, 2012 02:00 AM
Modified: Jan 20, 2012 05:20 PM
The Carolina RailHawks are not a feeder team for the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer, but the talent has flowed from Cary to Canada at a high rate this offseason.
Two more former RailHawks standouts joined the MLS team Tuesday.
All-league goalkeeper Brad Knighton signed a free-agent deal, and RailHawks all-time leading scorer Etienne Barbara was traded to Vancouver after the MLS supplemental draft.
When Vancouver visits Carolina for a March 4 friendly, at least five former RailHawks players or coaches will be on the opposing side. Head coach Martin Rennie was hired by Vancouver in the middle of Carolina's 2011 season.
After finishing the year with the RailHawks, Rennie has brought along with him assistant Paul Ritchie and three of his all-league players from last year - Knighton, Barbara and midfielder Matt Watson.
Barbara, who led the North American Soccer League in goals (20) and shots (83) and was tied for the lead in assists (nine), had his rights held by the Montreal Impact - an expansion MLS team that played in the NASL last season.
Although the Impact had not signed Barbara to a contract, it owned his rights if Barbara chose to play with any MLS team because of the league's discovery claim process.
On Tuesday, the Whitecaps traded defender Gienir Garcia - whom Vancouver selected in Tuesday's supplemental draft - to Montreal for Barbara's rights.
Barbara, 29, was MVP of the NASL this past season and has scored 28 goals in 54 appearances over two seasons with Carolina.
Knighton, 26, was an all-league player for Carolina this past season after spending four years in the MLS with the New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union. He gave up one goal per game, played every minute for Carolina in 2011 and was runner-up for the NASL Golden Glove award last season.
Knighton is a native of Hickory and played at UNC-Wilmington.