CARY, N.C. Carolina RailHawks fans lit a fire under more than just the smoke bombs they threw on the field at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday. Following Omar Bravo’s game-winning penalty kick in the fifth and final minute of extra time, ‘Hawks head coach Colin Clarke pointed to the 6,106 fans in attendance as the impetus behind the team’s 3-2 victory over NASL spring champions Indy Eleven.”I thought the crowd (did) a super job of giving them that lift,” Clarke said. “The atmosphere was unlike anything I’ve seen here apart from an Open Cup game.”Before Saturday, the RailHawks hadn’t won (or lost) a league match at home since July 9. Clarke was glad the team could give this win to the fans. “Delighted for them,” he said. “They’ve been wanting this, and now we’ve just got to make sure that we build on it. And the next one’s important.” Just like Saturday night’s fight between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz, Carolina’s match against Indy was a back-and-forth brawl. Eleven center back Greg Janicki opened up scoring in the match in the 20th minute, and Carolina forward Matt Fondy responded three minutes later with a turn-and-shoot snapshot from the edge of the penalty area to tie the game at 1-1. Indy was awarded a penalty kick of its own in the 30th minute for a pulling foul, which Eleven forward Eamon Zayed converted easily. The NASL first-place visitors would hold the lead until the 54th minute, where right back Steven Miller floated in a chipped-pass-turned-goal from way outside of the box, tying the game at 2-2. Miller relived his first goal in NASL play after the match. “To be honest we’ve been working a lot on lock-ins all week,” Miller said. “Ball’s on the opposite side of the field, I’m told to get high and push in on their outside midfielder. And da Luz played a phenomenal ball across, it got punched out by the keeper, and it bounced out to me. My eyes kind of lit up and I just tried to put it in a dangerous spot. I’m not going to say if it was a cross or a shot. I just tried to put it in a dangerous spot and luckily it went in and kind of brought us back into the game.”Headed into stoppage time, the match was shaping up to be the RailHawks’ third home tie in a row in NASL play. But then a handball call in the box gave Carolina a shot at a penalty kick to win the game. There was only one man on the field that was ever going to take that penalty. Appearing to attempt to ice the Indy goalkeeper, RailHawks forward Omar Bravo traced his steps back to the edge of the penalty area and relaced his boots. Then he slotted it home. “I thought we got what we deserved tonight,” Clarke said. “I thought we were the better team over the 90 minutes.” The win ended a five-game winless streak for the RailHawks while also ending Indy’s four-game roll of wins. With that “w” under its belt, Carolina will head north next week to face the New York Cosmos on Aug. 27.
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