Islanders Colin Clarke to be Named New Carolina RailHawks Coach Next Week
Colin Clarke, who has guided the Puerto Rico Islanders through 5 seasons, will not be returning to the team according to sources in Puerto Rico. Clarke has decided to take the vacant coaching job in Cary, North Carolina to lead the RailHawks for the 2012 season. The announcement will be made by the RailHawks early next week.
Clarke’s contract had expired after this past season and the ownership group of the Islanders could not come to agreement on renewing his coaching agreement with the team.
Neil Morris with Indy Week.com had reported in mid-November that Clarke was a leading candidate for the head coaching position for the Carolina RailHawks which was left vacant after previous coach Martin Rennie took the reins with the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS. According to Morris, RailHawks president Curt Johnson has known Clarke since the late 1990s when he hired the former Northern Ireland player for his first coaching job with the USL’s Richmond Kickers, where Johnson was GM.
Clarke had increasingly come under fire this season by Islanders fans even though his team finished its second division season with a better record than 2010 when they won the USSF D2 Pro League Championship. This season the Islanders finished 2nd in the NASL standings with a 15-6-7 record and 52 points, just 2 off of league-leading Carolina. But Clarke’s team was hindered in their playoff drive as it came during a FIFA International break. Because of international duty the Islanders, who had more players called up for CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers than any other NASL team, were missing up to 7 players for their playoff run against 4th place Fort Lauderdale. The Strikers disposed of Puerto Rico winning both home and away games and advanced to the finals.
Some Islanders supporters were also unhappy with Clarke because he did not speak Spanish and felt there was a public relations problem with the Northern Ireland native. But Clarke’s record spoke for itself. After spending 13 years as a player with teams like Peterborough United, Tranmere Rovers, Bournemouth, Southampton, Queens Park Rangers and Portsmouth as well as making 38 appearances for Northern Ireland, he turned his attention to coaching.
The 49-year-old is the most accomplished and established coach in D2 soccer. He has spent time coaching the Richmond Kickers of USL and FC Dallas of MLS where he won the Western Conference in 2006 before moving to the Islanders in mid-season of 2007. Clarke lead Puerto Rico, who had never finished better than 6th place in their first 4 seasons, to a 1st place finish in USL-1 for the 2008 season. In 2009 the team finished 3rd and made it to the semifinals of the playoffs. At the same time they won the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship (CFUCC) and made a famous run in the CONCACAF Champions league where they were eliminated in a penalty kick shootout in the semifinals of the tournament.
In 2010 the Islanders struggled with the weight of CFUCC and CONCACAF Champions League play, and finished in the last playoff position of the USSF D-2 Pro League. Puerto Rico did have a win of note early in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage by defeating the LA Galaxy at Home Depot Center with a 4-1 win. Under Clarke’s guidance, he led his Islanders to a late season surge winning the 2010 USSF D2 Pro League championship against the Carolina RailHawks in post season play.
The Islanders are expected to name their replacement for Clarke next week.