2016 Season Review
“How ’bout them Carolina RailHawks?!” The last year of the RailHawk was full of ups and downs for the new look North Carolina FC. After staying local for the preseason and playing mostly neighboring universities and USL sides (along with Toluca of Liga MX), Carolina started the 2016 Spring by winning their first four league contests. The club’s first loss would come on their visit to Hofstra in a match that would end with the Cosmos in front, 1-0. The RailHawks would not win again and spiral down the standings over the last five weeks, finishing the Spring in seventh place.
In the Open Cup the RailHawks smashed Charlotte Independence 5-0 before being knocked out by the New England Revolution on a late goal in extra time.
The club would reinforce their attack in the summer, trading for the 2015 USL MVP Matt Fondy, who was struggling in Jacksonville. Carolina would then bring in former Mexican National Team regular and Liga MX legend Omar Bravo. The attacking duo would play well together, scoring 11 total goals in the Fall, but the team would never find consistency in their results, finishing the second season in seventh and being eighth overall in the combined standings.
Additions and Subtractions
- Omar Bravo (Phoenix Rising)
- Matt Watson (Unattached)
- Kupono Low (Retired)
- Akira Fitzgerald (Tampa Bay Rowdies)
- Mickey Daly (OKC Energy)
- Drew Beckie (Jacksonville Armada)
- Mitch Garcia (St Louis Ambush)
- Marvin Ceballos (Unattached)
- Aly Hassan (San Antonio FC)
The club exercised the options on Brian Sylvestre, Macklin Robinson, Paul Black, Kareem Moses, and Brian Shriver. The club also re-signed Bill Schuler, Jonathaon Orlando, and Austin da Luz.
- Marcel Kandziora (Vfl Osnabruck)
- Christian Ibeagha (Colorado Springs Switchbacks)
- Saeed Robinson (Colorado Springs Switchbacks)
- Bolu Akinyode (Bethlehem Steel)
- Alex Molano (Swope Park Rangers)
- Lance Laing (Minnesota United)
- Dre Fortune (Rochester Rhinos)
Preseason Thus Far
NCFC is undefeated so far through preseason, as they continued their tradition of staying local and playing neighboring squads. The club opened preseason with a 1-1 draw against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL. Following the draw, the team defeated the Charleston Battery 1-0 and Richmond Kickers 3-0, both also of USL. The club formally known as the RailHawks then played Charlotte Independence to a thrilling 4-4 draw before traveling to play Richmond one more time, winning 1-0. NCFC last hosted Club Atlas of Liga MX before their season opener, and wound up on the wront end of a 2-1 loss.
Off the Pitch
The club re-branded from the RailHawks to North Carolina FC as part of an MLS bid. The team also entered into a partnership with Croatian side NK Instra 1961 which included sending Nazmi Albadawi and Brian Sylvestre on a preseason tour with the Croatian team, and the loan of two to three players back to NCFC. The players have yet to be announced. Owner Steve Malik announced the plans to form a women’s team to play in the organization. The team joined a partnership with local youth programs CASL and TFCA to help the club gain youth development. Steve Malik was also given a position on the USSF Board of Directors.
Final Grade and Predicted Finish
Carolina does a lot of things right off the field, which seems to be their focus as they build toward becoming an MLS expansion side. The on field results have told a different story. With several new players looking to fill the shoes of former regulars, it could be a season of growing pains for the club in their first year as NCFC.
Final Grade: B