With less than 50 days until the 2012 NASL season opening kickoff, the Carolina RailHawks have been busy signing players, scooping up former Strikers midfielder Brian Shriver, re-signing Cory Elenio from last year’s side and adding two of their own U-23 players. The Strikers announced the signing of veteran Abe Thompson as a player-coach, along with youngster Brazilian-American teenager Halili Nagime, while the preseason schedule for the league’s clubs has been announced.
RailHawks Bolster Roster
The RailHawks have made a premier signing for the upcoming season, adding coveted attacker Brian Shriver from the Strikers to Colin Clarke’s offensive arsenal. The former University of North Carolina forward has played in 52 games for Miami FC/Fort Lauderdale Strikers over the last three seasons, and last season scored 11 goals with 3 assists. At one point Shriver seemed involved in every Strikers’ goal as Daryl’s Shore’s team made a fine run in the playoffs, culminating in reaching the finals before losing to the NSC Minnesota Stars. The former Tar Heel not only played his college ball in the Triangle area, but also played for the RailHawks U-23 squad in 2008.
“Brian is a talented player with a tremendous scoring ability. His production is constantly on the rise and we are fortunate to add him to our roster,” said head coach Colin Clarke. “He had a great season with the Strikers, but he is still developing. Our fans will certainly enjoy him and he will be an important contributor for this team.”
The RailHawks have also returned Cory Elenio to the fold. One of six 2011 RailHawks inked for the upcoming season, the versatile Elenio played college ball at the University of Evansville and has earned 36 appearances with the RailHawks over the last two seasons after being on the Columbus Crew his first two seasons out of college. Elenio has been busy this winter playing MISL indoor soccer for the Syracuse Silver Knights, appearing in 21 matches thus far this season.
“We are delighted to have Cory back as a returning member of the regular season championship team,” said RailHawks President Curt Johnson. “It is important for us to continue to sign players with championship experience and talent for Colin [Clarke] to work with. Players want to come back and be a part of what we are building here as an organization. Cory is another great example of the players we want representing the RailHawks organization.”
The RailHawks also added two players from their U-23 team, Austen King and Justin Willis. King, a 6’2″ defender, is a native of Wilson, North Carolina who played his college ball at Elon University, where he was named to the 2011 All-Conference Tournament Team. Willis is also a defender. The 6-footer from Raleigh attended North Carolina State and will turn 24 years old in April. He played right back with the RailHawks U-23 side. “Having Austen and Justin signing with the RailHawks first team is a huge accomplishment for the RailHawks U-23s and the local club teams. Our goal with the RailHawks U-23 team is to provide an educational program that allows players to learn and get ready for the next level,” said Dewan Bader, head coach of RailHawks U-23s. “Our players work hard and learn additional skills to make them better players. Austen and Justin embraced our program and will now have the opportunity to play professionally at home.”
The RailHawks did suffer some bad news, as newly signed defender Gale Agbossoumonde, scheduled to participate in the U.S. Men’s U-23 camp in February, will be unable to attend due to a toe injury. The talented defender will rehab in preparation for the RailHawks season while still maintaining hopes of an Olympic team call-up.
Strikers Sign Two
Veteran forward Abe Thompson will be returning to the Strikers for the 2012 season, albeit with the additional responsibility of assistant coach to head coach Daryl Shore. Thompson, who turned 30 in January, will begin his third season with the franchise. Despite missing early-season matches because of injury, the Arizona native still managed to knock in 7 goals, adding two assists, as the Strikers made it all the way to the NASL playoff finals.
“My goal is to win a championship this season,” said Thompson. “We got very close last year, but our focus is to make it back there and win. As a coach I’ll be the players’ voice in our coaches meetings, so I can let Daryl know when I feel the team needs to train harder and when we need a rest.” Thompson replaces Strikers’ assistant Jim Rooney, who is now working with the U.S. Men’s U-17 team.
The Strikers also added 18-year-old forward Halili Nagime. The Massachusetts-born Nagime grew up in Brazil, and has been previously in New Zealand with FC Auckland. “Halili is another attacking option we’re bringing into our group,” said Shore. “We expect him to compete and contribute in our quest to win the championship.”
The Strikers have also announced that David Santamaria and Cristian Quinones will not return to the Strikers for the 2012 season.
The 2012 preseason schedule for the eight NASL clubs has been announced and can be viewed here. Highlights of the schedule include the Scorpions run-in with the U.S. U-23 national team, along with their March clash with Mexican side Dorados; a matchup between the Atlanta Silverbacks and the Charleston Battery, and a south Florida tuneup derby between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Both teams will also be involved with scrimmages with the NY Red Bulls, while the Carolina RailHawks will host former Coach Martin Rennie and his Vancouver Whitecaps club on March 4. The Minnesota Stars FC will play a friendly with FC Edmonton at NSC Stadium on Monday April 2 before kicking off their opener at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome against the RailHawks on April 7.