NSC Stars Go Up Against Carolina RailHawks
The NSC Stars travel to WakeMed Park in Cary, NC tonight to play the RailHawks at 6:00 PM CT. The game will be available online at the NSC Stars website.
The NSC Stars may have needed to either take naps or get to bed early on Thursday evening. Their day had started mighty early as their red-eye flight to Raleigh-Durham left at 4:00 am on Thursday morning.
The players on that early flight were: Joe Warren, Andres Arango, Andrei Gotsmanov, Daniel Wasson, Warren Ukah, Johnny Menyongar, Chris Clements, Brian Kallman, Devin Del Do, Kyle Altman, Melvin Tarley, Simone Bracalello and former 3rd-string keeper Mat VanOekel.
VanOekel was signed to a contract on Wednesday, according to Manny Lagos, head coach of the Stars. The NSC told IMS that last year’s Thunder backup keeper will be wearing Louis Crayton’s kit because they couldn’t get a jersey turned around in time before they left for Cary, but he’ll be wearing the #30 when he gets his own gear.
Meeting the 13 players in Carolina will be Kevin Friedland and Leilei Gao, both who flew directly from Vancouver after remaining there after last Sunday’s game in order to clear up visa issues for Leilei and Two-Boys Gumede. Friedland, who is a player/coach, stayed with the both players to assist them in communicating with the NSC and getting the visa matter cleaned up. As of Thursday, Two-Boys still hadn’t gotten clearance and the NSC expected it would be Friday before that happened. They will then fly him back to the Twin Cities rather than risk a late flight into North Carolina where he would be doubtful to make the game on time.
Neil Hlavaty didn’t make the trip for the 2nd game in a row. He was still having issues getting his registration from the Polish Football Federation, which was sure to have been complicated by the tragedy in Poland this past week.
Louis Crayton, who went down in Sunday’s game in Vancouver in what seemed like a serious knee injury, still has not had an MRI. He has attempted to do so several times this week but the swelling is still too severe to allow the MRI to be effective.
Lagos said Ely Allen and Brian Cvilikas did not make the team because he is trying to manage his team that will play a game Friday then turn around and play a game next Wednesday and again on the weekend. With only 15 players in Carolina, it will not even allow coach Lagos his full 5 substitutes, which could be an issue with the predicted high of 80° in Cary today. Last Sunday, the Stars manager used all 5 subs as his players looked fatigued compared to Vancouver, who had been training for months.
“We had a light practice yesterday and you could tell the guys weren’t used to the temperatures,” said Lagos. “It’s predicted to be the hottest day of the week down here. When we went to Vancouver they had similar weather to us so that wasn’t a factor. The temperature could be an issue for our guys tonight.”
The game last Sunday saw Minnesota dominated early, but bounce back with some better scoring opportunities than Vancouver. After Crayton went down just before the half, the team seemed to take a dip in confidence and it was the all-Whitecaps show the second half. Minnesota was never able to string together more than a few passes and rarely was able to get the ball out of their own half until some of the Stars’ subs were made.
Don’t expect things to get easier for the Stars tonight. Carolina is every bit as talented as Vancouver if not more. The RailHawks finished 2nd in the league last year and improved their roster in the off season. One of those acquisitions is Nic Platter, former goalkeeper for the Minnesota Thunder. As of Thursday evening there was still no word if Platter or Eric Reed would get the nod against the Stars. Reed started last Sunday’s opening game for the RailHawks when they beat AC St. Louis in their inaugural game, 2-0. Carolina coach Martin Rennie has favored a system in the past of rotating their keepers but word from Carolina is that system may change this year. Reed was not tested much against the expansion team last Sunday at WakeMed Park and recorded only three saves to give the keeper a clean sheet.
Etienne Barbara, who was acquired by Rennie over the off-season, scored both RailHawks goals last week. The Carolina offense is still looking for a partner to pair with the striker from Malta.
For Minnesota, look for Simone Bracalello to try to make an impact on the game. Bracalello also trialed with Carolina this spring before the Minnesota combine but with the talent-laden roster of the RailHawks they didn’t have room for developing the 24-year-old Italian. Lagos said he was very pleased with Bracalello last week as he opened some space in key spots late in the game with the team struggling to get momentum. “He also held the ball up for us nicely,” said Lagos. Don’t expect to see Bracalello start but more likely you will see the striker in the second half as a sub.
Over the last three years, the RailHawks have gone a combined 5-0-1 in the first month of the season, and they have outscored their opponents 8-2 in those six matches. Also, the Carolina team is 12-2-2 at WakeMed Soccer Park under coach Rennie since he was hired as manager last season. In the three years as a team, Carolina is 20-11-12 in home league matches.