Soccer: Pumas UNAM 2, Carolina 1:
Published: Mar 22, 2013 03:30 PM
Modified: Mar 22, 2013 03:31 PM
CARY - The RailHawks went into a game knowing the other team had more talent and the home crowd would be largely for the visitors.
They weren’t proven wrong on either account, yet Carolina was upbeat after a 2-1 loss to Pumas UNAM, a Mexican first-division team.
Pumas, which brought plenty of contributors and a few starters to the match, had more speed and played faster than the Vancouver Whitecaps, the RailHawks’ last preseason opponent, which won 4-0 last month.
But the RailHawks avoided a knockout blow. With the North American Soccer League set to start, RailHawks coach Colin Clarke took solace, saying, “We won’t be playing against Pumas every weekend.”
“They’re a very, very good team. Let’s be honest. They’re sixth in their division and on the rise,” Clarke said.
The 8,054 on hand set an attendance record for a RailHawks home match. From the outset, Pumas fans rejoiced as the team’s high-pressured attack led to RailHawks mistakes.
Pumas’ pressure-driven 3-4-3 formation helped force the first two goals. Carolina’s Floyd Franks chipped the ball into his own net in the 16th.
The movement also led to a bad giveaway from Ty Shipalane and the second Pumas goal, in the 41st.
But those giveaways were made by midfielders, not the back line that struggled so mightily last season for Carolina. Center back Austen King was the RailHawks’ best player, according to Clarke, and the rest of the back line stepped up after starter Julius James injured his hamstring in the 18th minute.
Goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald, who was heckled in unison as the bleachers shook the stadium before his goal kicks, made five saves and faced 16 shots.
“We knew it would be a good test because at times they pushed four or five up front and it looked more like a 3-2-5. We coped with it well,” Clarke said. “I thought we showed a lot of positives.”
The RailHawks’ Zack Schilawski, a Cary native, answered immediately in the 42nd minute for Carolina’s only goal. Despite being outplayed, the RailHawks had a few solid chances – a missed rebound from Schilawski in the 31st, a 61st-minute Shipalane shot pushed just wide and a shot by Nick Millington hit the left post in the 64th.
“The majority were here to watch Pumas, and we understand that,” Clarke said. “But you’d love to think that they’ve seen us and they know that we can play a little bit.”