Three questions is back! Since the opponent this week is outside of MLS, we went back to a familiar source, Luke Lohr of all-around excellent American soccer site The MLS Reserves, to help give us some knowledge on Chivas USA's opponent Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup, the Carolina RailHawks. You may recall that we also talked to Luke last year in the same situation, and we appreciate him returning once again. Many thanks to Luke for taking the time to answer my questions about Carolina!
The Goat Parade asks The MLS Reserves:
1. First, how are the RailHawks doing so far in this NASL season?
Currently in first place, the RailHawks are in a heated battle for part one of the NASL season (Editor's Note: The NASL is playing a divided season this year, similar to the structure of Liga MX). Up for grabs is the right to host the NASL Championship (Soccer Bowl) and Carolina is easily a candidate. With only one loss in the league, defeating the LA Galaxy in U.S. Open Cup play, and a top of the table standing, Carolina looks primed for advancement.
2. It appears there hasn't been much roster turnover for Carolina this year. Are there any notable additions, and among all the players, who are a couple of the key contributors on the squad?
There hasn't been much roster turnover, however due to red cards and injuries there has been a great deal of rotation and inconsistency in the back line. Julius James, when healthy, has been stalwart for Carolina and is a big reason why they are in the position they are in. Another big reason for that is the play of defender Paul Hamilton who, when healthy, provides a stability that surpasses his years of experience. Goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald is a paltry 5' 11", but manages to turn heads with brilliant saves. Fitzgerald is often compared to Nick Rimando of RSL.
In the attack, former MLSers Austin da Luz and Zack Schilawski have been combining quite well. da Luz serves as the team's playmaker and Schilawski the target forward. Ty (pronounced "Tea") Shipalane has unparalleled speed, something Chivas will have a difficult time defending.
3. Chivas USA and Carolina met in the same stage of last year's USOC, and Chivas won on a last-minute PK. What is their attitude coming into the meeting this year? Are the RailHawks cautious of meeting another MLS team, or are they ready to take another first-division opponent and get a measure of revenge in the process?
Last year's result was surprising to those who watched the game. Chivas was outplayed by Carolina but the inexperience of Gale Agbossoumonde and the talent of Juan Pablo Angel turned the tables late. Coach Colin Clarke knows that Chivas are dangerous because of the coaching turnover and guys fighting for their spot. A team with little to lose is far more dangerous than their standings suggest. As for the players, the RailHawks are littered with MLS experience and quality NASL players. Expect a very good match-up.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for this match?
Based on current form and momentum, this one looks to be in Carolina's favor. 4-2 RailHawks. Mind you, not a homer prediction, after Mario de Luna's own goal (against the Seattle Sounders), it's hard to pick Chivas in anything.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!