Whitecaps FC striker Sebastien Le Toux and RailHawks midfielder Amir Lowery

Whitecaps FC fall on penalties in preseason finale at Carolina RailHawks

CARY, NC - Playing their final match of preseason, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (5W-0L-3D) drew 2-2 with North American Soccer League (NASL) side Carolina RailHawks in Cary, North Carolina, on Sunday afternoon. Whitecaps FC missed out on the fourth annual Hilton Garden Inn Durham Southpoint Community Shield title after falling 4-2 on penalties to the RailHawks.

In what was a lively preseason encounter between two former foes at the North American second division level, Amir Lowery gave Carolina an early lead before Long Tan levelled matters for the ‘Caps shortly after halftime. Brian Shriver restored the RailHawks’ lead in the second half before Davide Chiumiento forced a decisive penalty shootout with a very late second equalizer for Vancouver. In the end, it was hosts Carolina that kept their nerve in the penalty shootout to win the preseason Community Shield title on a cool and windy spring day at WakeMed Soccer Park.

“I thought it was a good game,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie. “I was impressed with the RailHawks, as they’ve only been training for a short space of time and have a lot of new additions. They were organized and difficult to play against. I thought in the first half, we were a little bit slow and not into the game, as I would have liked. In the second half, I thought we actually played quite well, just disappointed to be a man short for those couple of minutes when Carolina scored again. I was pleased we showed the character to come back and finish the game out strong.”

Returning to play the club he coached for three seasons, Rennie was not the only former RailHawks member that appeared at Sunday’s match. The Scotsman’s starting XI included the former Carolina pair of goalkeeper Brad Knighton and midfielder Matt Watson. Vancouver’s line-up also included Whitecaps FC Residency products Bryce Alderson and Russell Teibert in midfield, while striker Sebastien Le Toux wore the captain’s armband.

Wearing an unfamiliar strip of all navy blue, it was Colin Clarke’s RailHawks that made the brighter start versus their Major League Soccer guests, with Carolina taking the lead on seven minutes from the first corner of the match. Nick Zimmerman’s set-piece found its way to an unmarked Lowery on the edge of the six-yard box, and the former Montreal Impact midfielder headed home to make it 1-0 to the hosts.

The goal proved to be a reflection of the first quarter of the contest, as the ‘Caps looked a bit unsettled during those initial stages. However, Vancouver soon got their passing rhythm going and tested RailHawks goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald before the break. Teibert forced the Carolina shot-stopper into a save with a close-range shot on 25 minutes before Chiumiento brought an even better save out of Fitzgerald with a powerful strike that was destined for the far corner of the net eight minutes later. As a result, the home side took a one-goal lead into halftime.

Looking to get back into the game, Whitecaps FC made an excellent start to the second half and were rewarded with an equalizer on 49 minutes. Chiumiento was proving to be a real handful on the left flank for the RailHawks, and it was from the left-hand side that the Swiss playmaker swung in an exquisite cross that Tan neatly headed past a helpless Fitzgerald to make it 1-1.

Up until the hour mark, it looked like Vancouver would turn the match in their favour after Watson and Chiumiento forced Fitzgerald into a couple of saves on 51 and 58 minutes, respectively. Yet, credit to Carolina, they regained the momentum past the midway point of the second half and restored their lead on 71 minutes. After seeing a couple of chances go begging moments earlier, Shriver found his way on to the scoresheet, as he was quickest to react to a rebound in the Vancouver box after Knighton could only block away Zimmerman’s goal-bound drive for a 2-1 RailHawks advantage.

As the time wound down, Carolina’s hopes of a notable victory in regulation time ended in the 90th minute, as Whitecaps FC drew level again from a counter-attacking move. From the right side of the RailHawks box, Tan measured a fine through ball to Chiumiento, who struck first-time with his right foot to beat Fitzgerald and make it 2-2 at fulltime.

With a piece of silverware up for grabs, the Community Shield was decided on penalties. After both clubs scored their first two spot kicks, Tan and Knighton were off-target for the visitors, while Carolina’s Cory Miller and RailHawks substitute Ty Shipalane found the back of the net to earn the NASL club the preseason title.

After six weeks of preseason, which included eight matches and trips to Arizona and Florida, Whitecaps FC return home to Vancouver to prepare for MLS First Kick versus Canadian arch-rivals and MLS expansion club Montreal Impact at BC Place next Saturday afternoon.

Whitecaps FC 2012 Major League Soccer season tickets start at $329, plus applicable tax and a $10 processing fee per order. To secure a seat and for additional information about Whitecaps FC MLS season tickets, including loge seats and suites, call 604.669.9283 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.

Scoring summary:
7' - CAR - Amir Lowery (Nick Zimmerman)
49' - VAN - Long Tan (Davide Chiumiento)
71' - CAR - Brian Shriver (Nick Zimmerman)
90' - VAN - Davide Chiumiento (Long Tan)

Match stats:
Shots: Carolina 8 - Vancouver 7
Saves: Carolina 5 - Vancouver 4
Fouls: Carolina 11 - Vancouver 9
Corners: Carolina 1 - Vancouver 5


Carolina RailHawks
1.Akira Fitzgerald; 32.Justin Willis (35.Jordan Graye 65'), 16.Cory Miller, 15.Austin King, 3.Kupono Low (25.Sam Stockley 90'); 5.Amir Lowery, 23.Nick Zimmerman (11.Ty Shipalane 72'), 10.Michael Palacio (4.Tommy Drake 45'), 21.Brian Shriver (33.Craig Dargo 83'); 13.Brian Ackley (28.Kithson Bain 83'), 24.Fredrico (31.Andre McCreath 45')

Vancouver Whitecaps FC
18.Brad Knighton; 32.Greg Klazura, 2.Michael Boxall, 19.Carlyle Mitchell, 3.Jordan Harvey; 31.Russell Teibert (17.Omar Salgado 72'), 16.Matt Watson, 36.Bryce Alderson, 20.Davide Chiumiento; 7.Sebastien Le Toux, 23.Long Tan