With Carolina’s 3-1 victory over Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday and Puerto Rico’s loss on Sunday against Minnesota, the Rowdies opponent for the NASL Semifinals will be the fourth-seeded Carolina RailHawks.
For Carolina, the 3-1 victory over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers this past Saturday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC means once again they will play in the NASL Semifinals. In the 2011 NASL Playoffs they were knocked out in the semifinals by the eventual champions Minnesota in a decisive penalty kick shootout.
Midfielder Tiyi Shipalane led the way for Carolina, scoring twice in the match including the game-winning goal, while midfielder Amir Lowery scored his first goal of the season to push the RailHawks into the semifinals. Strikers forward Abe Thompson scored the only goal for the Strikers.
In the 2012 season the RailHawks finished with 40 points, earning fourth place in the NASL standings. With a record of 10-10-8, they finished third in the league for the fewest losses in the league, behind San Antonio and Tampa Bay with both having only seven losses this season. They were led by their leading scorer Nick Zimmerman, who was second in the league with 15 goals. Midfielder Mike Palacio led the team with six assists, tied for third in the league. Goalkeeper Ray Burse was fifth in the regular season with 82 saves. Carolina scored 44 goals in the regular season, second-most in the NASL, but allowed a league-high 46 goals, tied with Ft. Lauderdale. The RailHawks finished with a 1-3-1 record in their last five games of the regular season.
As for the matchups between Carolina and Tampa Bay, all four matches this season ended in a draw, including the last two matches of the regular season.
The first match was on April 18 at Al Lang Stadium, where the Rowdies played to a 1-1 draw against Carolina. Carolina opened the scoring in the 67th minute on a goal by forward Brian Shriver, but Tampa Bay’s equalizer came quickly as former Rowdies forward Tsuyoshi Yoshitake scored from inside the 6-yard box in the 70th minute.
In a thrilling match on August 4, Tampa Bay scored twice in the final minutes to rally from a 3-1 deficit and earned a 3-3 tie at WakeMed Soccer Park on August 4th. Midfielder Shane Hill had opened the scoring in the 17th minute, before the Rowdies fell to a 3-1 deficit. Forward Luke Mulholland's blast in the 86th minute cut Carolina's lead to 3-2 before defender Takuya Yamada notched the tying goal in second half stoppage time to complete Tampa Bay's comeback.
On September 19, the Rowdies played to a 1-1 draw against Carolina at Al Lang Stadium in Downtown St. Petersburg and secured a spot in the NASL Semifinals. The Rowdies went up 1-0 in the 13th minute, when Andres Arango headed a perfect ball into the top right corner of the net after a perfect corner kick by midfielder Luke Mulholland. The RailHawks equalized in the 61st minute after midfielder Ty Shipalane scored his fifth goal of the season at the time. His shot took a deflection off of defender Frankie Sanfilippo and went past Rowdies goalkeeper Jeff Attinella.
The final match between both clubs came on September 22, as the Rowdies and the RailHawks played to a scoreless draw, making it the fourth draw between both teams this season. The game at WakeMed Soccer Park was Tampa Bay's last game of the 2012 Regular Season. Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella picked up his 11th shutout of the season and 16th clean sheet of his career in Carolina, earning him his fifth NASL Defensive Player of the Week award this season.
The Rowdies will then host the second leg of the NASL Semifinal on Saturday, October 13 at Al Lang Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available starting at $12. For more information and for discounted tickets, call our front office at 813.287.1539 or log on to RowdiesSoccer.com!