If you read this site regularly, you are familiar with the Three Questions Exchange feature. Ahead of Tuesday's match against the Carolina RailHawks in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup, we have a special version of the Three Questions Exchange. Unlike Chivas' MLS opponents, who you can watch on a regular basis, I'm assuming there aren't many folks who have seen Carolina play much this year. So luckily we have Luke Lohr to help fill us in. Luke is the founder and senior writer for The MLS Reserves, a great site on American soccer that you should definitely read as it always has good coverage. In addition, Luke knows a good deal about the RailHawks, as he is a halftime analyst and occasional color commentator for their broadcasts. Thanks very much to Luke for his time and knowledge!
1. The RailHawks are several matches into the 2012 NASL season. What is their general style of play? And how is their form so far this year?
The RailHawks have only recently discovered their identity under Colin Clarke. There was an adjustment period for a bit but now we see them playing the way they want to. Strong centerbacks who hold their ground feed into a midfield that enjoys playing the ball out wide. Crosses are the norm for Carolina. They make good use of lone forward and former MLSer Zack Schilawski who, despite being small, does a good job of using his body and harassing defenses.2. Are there one or two key players on Carolina's team you could discuss? What makes them so important to the squad?
Several in fact. Gale Agbossoumonde is a youth men's national team player. It is reported that if not for a turf toe injury, he would have been with Caleb Porter's side at Olympic Qualifying. He is big, strong and plays the ball well from his centerback position. Despite being only 20 years old, Gale has a keen sense of how to play the game. Apart from Gale, former MLSers Nick Zimmerman, Zack Schilawski and Austin da Luz are all in good form.
3. What do you think a deep run in the U.S. Open Cup would mean to the RailHawks club and local community?
The organization needed a shot in the arm. After a disapointing end to last year's season and the rough start to this one, the 2011 Regular Season Champs were in need of a boost. The local community is soccer conscious but I think having the LA Galaxy here last week woke them up a bit to the worthwhile team that is Carolina. They sold that match out and are looking likely to come close with Chivas USA. That the team is able to do that while the stadium undergoes expansion is a great sign. If those fans that are enjoying these MLS teams coming can make the jump to regular season matches, then everyone will benefit. The RailHawks have a solid NASL product that is worthy of attention.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for Tuesday's match?
3-2 Carolina. I expect Chivas USA to bring a strong squad and look to take advantage of a surprise opening to make a deep run of their own. They're playing well in the league and will want to continue that... but Carolina is now four games unbeaten with three worthwhile wins. The most recent over NASL leading Puerto Rico where they were a man down for over 50 minutes. Carolina is riding high right now and they know what is at stake.