CARY — With the win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the rearview mirror, being displaced from WakeMed Soccer Park’s main stadium for a game hardly seems like a bump in the Carolina RailHawks’ road.
Yes, only 3,000 patrons got to see the match in person, but the next three home matches could be near-capacity crowds back on the main field.
On Sunday, the team will host Mexican Premier League power Puebla FC – a current team of U.S. national team player Damarcus Beasley, who is in Brazil on the World Cup squad. The last time the RailHawks hosted a team out of this league, 8,054 fans packed WakeMed Soccer Park and most of them appeared to cheer on visiting Pumas UNAM.
Those who do the same with Puebla will likely be rooting against RailHawks backups.
The RailHawks starters are expected to be withheld so they can be fresh for the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup next Wednesday. Carolina, one of eight teams remaining, will take on MLS team FC Dallas on July 9. On July 12, the team opens the NASL fall season at home.
July 9 will mark the ninth time the RailHawks have hosted an MLS opponent in the Open Cup, and the team boasts a 6-2 record in those games.
The only other non-MLS team still alive in the quarterfinals is the Atlanta Silverbacks, but they will be without three players and two coaches after receiving five red cards in a fight with the Colorado Rapids. The NASL team who advances the farthest in the tournament – which was the RailHawks last year – receives $15,000.
Grella, Stahl negotiating: Coach Colin Clarke said the team was still hoping to bring back forward Mike Grella and defender Toni Stahl. The two had contracts expire shortly after a fourth-round U.S. Open Cup win against Chivas USA.
When the NASL moved to a split-season format in 2013, some players began signing contracts for just one of the split seasons. But because the RailHawks were still alive in the Cup competition during the NASL break, those two players – both starters – were on the field one week and not under contract the next.
Blake: 919-460-2606; For RailHawks coverage on Twitter: @SWakeSports