RailHawks, Impact Play to 1-1 Draw
CARY, N.C. - In the end, not only was the 1-1 scoreline just about right, it was fitting that Carolina and Montreal got their goals in the same way.
Carolina's Kupono Low converted a kick from the penalty spot in the 69th minute but the Impact drew even in the 82nd thanks to Nevio Pizzolitto's PK conversion, and the teams ended their preseason exhibition tied 1-1 Saturday night.
"I thought they were both fairly soft, but I couldn't see either too well," Carolina coach Martin Rennie said of the two penalties awarded. "They didn't seem like blatant penalties, but fair enough. I think a draw was probably a fair result tonight."
Though the Impact took almost twice as many shots as the RailHawks (15-8), the teams played a mostly even match over the full 90 minutes at WakeMed Soccer Park and neither side was able to separate itself from the other.
That should be viewed as a positive sign for the RailHawks. The Impact have been training for nearly two months - Carolina has been together for almost four weeks - and Carolina had no trouble causing trouble for the 2009 USL First Division champions.
Given that Saturday's match was the first time during the preseason that the RailHawks have played a team from their league, they were able to get a better feeling on where they are currently and where they need to get to by the April 10 season opener.
"We're all confident now," said Carolina goalkeeper Eric Reed, who had four saves on the night. "We know we're good, and as a team, we're starting to come together and play well as a group. We're happy with where we're at, but we know it's a long season and we've got a lot growing to do if we're going to win a championship this year."
After a slow start, the RailHawks had arguably their best offensive performance of the preseason.
In the 16th minute, after nice buildup down the right flank with trialist Cory Elenio, trialist Joseph Ngwenya and defender Ramak Safi, Daniel Paladini had the ball on his foot from 10 yards away. But Montreal goalkeeper Matt Jordan made the save.
In the 26th minute, Josh Gardner crossed the ball into Elenio, whose one-time flick zoomed just over the crossbar.
In the 52nd minute, Ngwenya centered a ball to the front of the goal. Paladini was in position but was unable to redirect the ball on frame. The ball popped out to Gardner, but his try from the top of the box went wide.
In the 55th minute, Low hit a rocket from 20 yards away that forced Jordan to sprawl out and punch away.
While offensive chances came from the run of play, the RailHawks' goal came from the penalty spot.
Jostling for position as the ball sailed into the penalty area, Montreal's Simon Gatti tugged on the jersey of Carolina's Amir Lowery, a seemingly minor infraction that drew a whistle and a chance for the RailHawks to take the lead. Low took the ball and tucked it to his left to put the RailHawks ahead 1-0.
But they were unable to make the lead hold up.
In the 81st minute, Montreal forward Peter Byers tried to split the RailHawks defense and as he cut toward the goal, Gardner clipped his right leg, giving Montreal a PK. Pizzolito hammered it in to even the match.
"It was unfortunate on our part," Reed said. "I think the score reflected the game. I thought both teams had a good game. So we'll take this and be able to grow from it."
Montreal nearly nabbed the game winner in stoppage time.
Hicham Aboubou hit a searing header on a corner kick that was tracking toward the goal, but Gardner was on the post and cleared it away.
"That was a really good preseason game. That was two good teams that played good soccer," Rennie said. "After playing two games in two days, to put in a good performance like that was good. It was a good step forward."
North American Soccer League Stories from March 27, 2010
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