NASL fall season preview

After Open Cup game, NASL fall season looms large

mblake@newsobserver.comJuly 11, 2014 

From left to right: Tiyi Shiplane, Enzo Martinez, Zack Schilawski and Nick Millington celebrate during the Carolina RailHawks’ season-opening home game against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary on Saturday, April 19, 2014.

RAY BLACK III — newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • Teams to watch

    These teams had overall spring season records similar to Carolina’s and will be fighting with the RailHawks, not only for the fall season title, but also for one of the two at-large spots given to teams with the best overall records in the combined fall and spring season.

    New York Cosmos (6-2-1)

    San Antonio (5-2-2)

    Fort Lauderdale (4-4-1)

    Ottawa (3-5-1)

    Atlanta (3-5-1)

  • NASL fall schedule

    July 12: Indy Eleven

    July 17: at Minnesota

    July 23: at San Antonio

    July 26: Ottawa

    Aug. 2: at New York

    Aug. 9: Tampa Bay

    Aug. 16: FC Edmonton

    Aug. 23: at Tampa Bay

    Aug. 30: Atlanta

    Sept. 7: at Ottawa

    Sept. 13: San Antonio

    Sept. 20: New York

    Sept. 27: at Indy Eleven

    Oct. 4: at Fort Lauderdale

    Oct. 12: at FC Edmonton

    Oct. 18: Fort Lauderdale

    Oct. 25: at Atlanta

    Nov. 1: Minnesota

In some ways, the RailHawks are starting the NASL fall season with a clean slate. In others, they’re still every part of their 4-3-2 (W-L-T) record accumulated in the spring season.

That’s because there are two ways Carolina can earn a spot in this year’s NASL playoffs, which have expanded from two to four teams from a year ago.

The RailHawks can earn a home match in the first round if they win the fall season.

Or they could make into the playoffs by posting one of the top two overall records from the combined fall and spring seasons (excluding the spring and fall champions themselves). Minnesota United has clinched a home playoff spot after winning the spring with a 6-1-2 mark.

The fall season is twice as long as the spring, a byproduct of the NASL timing its break with the World Cup. Teams will play each other twice for a total of 18 fall games in four months.

The RailHawks will have to play two midweek games as a result of the change in schedule, though neither of those games will be at home. Each home game during the fall season will be on a Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Cary native Zack Schilawski leads the team in NASL goals this year with three. He is tied with teammates Tiyi Shipalane and Cesar Elizondo with two assists apiece.

Goalkeeper Scott Goodwin will start for at least the first two NASL matches as Akira Fitzgerald continues to heal from an injured thumb.

Defender Justin Willis and midfielder Nick Zimmerman are expected to make contributions in the fall after both missed the spring with injuries sustained in the 2013 season.

Blake: 919-460-2606; For RailHawks coverage on Twitter: @SWakeSports

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