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Hawk's Nest Notes: the season opener

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Sports Editor J. Mike Blake was on hand for the Carolina RailHawks' season-opening 2-0 win over AC St. Louis. He found out the key to Josh Gardner's improved play and what coach Martin Rennie plans to do with his goalkeepers. He couldn't understand, however why any coach would rather play down a player for 30 minutes unless he's waiting for the best player in the league to show up (tisk, tisk Claude Anelka). Read more on these and more below.

Gardner's turnaround

Josh Gardner's name might not come up in a report of the game, but aside from Etienne Barbara, no one on the RailHawks side looked as impressive.

I'll have more on this in Wednesday's Point After column, but let's just say there's a reason Gardner went from not being used hardly at all last year to almost signing with an MLS squad this offseason.

It's all about TrimSpa baby! shedding a few pounds.

Goalkeeper TBD

Last year, coach Martin Rennie rotated Eric Reed and Caleb Patterson-Sewell in goal. Rennie has been reluctant to say whether or not he'd do that again this year with Nic Platter replacing CPS on the roster.

Even after Reed's clean sheet on Saturday, Rennie had no decision. But we should know something after the April 25 friendly against the Mexican Olympic team. 

"I haven't really decided yet," Rennie said. "There's three games at home, including tonight. One of them will play two, the other will play one, and we'll evaluate them after that."

11-on-10? Why?

What a way to start a franchise. AC St. Louis actually chose to be down a man for the game's first 31 minutes instead of subbing out the forgetful Manuel Kante.

Kante must've realized fairly early before the game's start that he didn't have an ID to ensure he was who he said he was (this is required with players' player cards). And he must've known exactly where he left it. Missing 31 minutes of game time sounds like a lot until I found out ACSTL stayed in a hotel around Crabtree — no easy trip with weekend traffic around the mall.

So in those 31 minutes, despite few RailHawks realizing they had a man advantage, Carolina jumped out to a 2-0 lead and ACSTL seriously threatened just once.

When asked about why he didn't just sub out Kante and go 11-on-11 with a different player (understanding that Kante would not re-enter), ACSTL coach Claude Anelka said, "Because he left his passport at the hotel, he couldn't play. So we had to go get his passport back at the hotel ...[If] we bring in one player — Kante couldn't play anymore."

Yeah, we got that. But really?

Anelka must have some high praise for Kante – or have figured the passport situation would be handled quickly — to have thought 11-on-10 without Kante was better than 11-on-11 with no Kante at all.

Hilarious. And puzzling. 

Attendance lacking

It's still early, but RailHawks brass couldn't have been pleased with the attendance on Saturday. Despite no basketball, football or Hurricanes action to compete with the season opener, only 2,013 fans took the opportunity to welcome back several of the players from last year's record-breaking team.

And the weather was perfect. No real excuses, but I'm sure those in charge will be working feverishly to make sure that number goes up in the months to come. 

Most teams are behind the curve when it comes to marketing strategies, etc. because of the several months that the league and teams' futures hung in the balance. It's hard to implement ways to get more butts in seats when you don't know if you'll even have games.

No Kreamalmeyer in WakeMed

We were looking forward to the first former RailHawk entering WakeMed Soccer Park this year, but forward Luke Kreamalmeyer stayed home in St. Louis as his wife gave birth to the couple's child.

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About the blogger

J. Mike Blake has been the Sports Editor for The Cary News and Southwest Wake News since October 2008. He holds two "unofficial" NCHSAA records in two different sports - highest career free throw percentage (2-of-2) in basketball and fewest career singles victories (zero. sigh.) for tennis.
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