Brian Shriver celebrates his game-winning goal during the Carolina RailHawks 3-2 victory over Minnesota United on June 22 at WakeMed Soccer Park
  • File photo by Rob Kinnan
  • Brian Shriver celebrates his game-winning goal during the Carolina RailHawks 3-2 victory over Minnesota United on June 22 at WakeMed Soccer Park

For all the understandable gnashing of teeth over the Carolina RailHawks’ inability to convert goals with the same frequency and precision as the opportunities generated by their creative cadre of attacking midfielders, supporters risk overlooking the potent scoring pace of Brian Shriver. Before arriving in Carolina last season, the former North Carolina Tar Heels standout scored 10 goals in 49 appearances during his three-year stint with Miami FC-cum-Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Last year, a promising start to Shriver’s RailHawks debut—including a four-goal turkey shoot against PSA Elite in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup—was eventually stymied by a rash of injuries that hampered his on-field production. Ultimately, Shriver finished the 2012 season with five league goals, far behind the team-leading 15 netted by Nick Zimmerman.

When the RailHawks faces Minnesota United FC this Saturday at 7 p.m., a revived Shriver will take the WakeMed Soccer Park pitch. Shriver leads the NASL this year with 11 goals in just 14 matches, an average of 0.78 goals per game. That average is higher than both Etienne Barbara’s RailHawks single-season record in 2011 (20 goals in 29 matches, 0.69 gpg) and Pablo Campos’ NASL scoring record in 2012 (21 goals in 30 matches, 0.7 gpg).

Campos and Barbara, the dynamic scoring duo for the RailHawks in 2011, reunited in Minnesota for the 2013 Spring Season. However, Barbara’s contentious, disappointing stay there ended earlier this month when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Meanwhile, Campos has managed six goals this season, fourth-most in the league but a far cry from last year’s record-setting output as a member of the San Antonio Scorpions.

Meanwhile, the 26-year-old Shriver continues to reap the benefits of renewed health and formations that have shifted the traditional midfielder off the wings and into a forward position. Moreover, with crafty wingers like Ty Shipalane, Austin da Luz, Cesar Elizondo and Enzo Martinez drawing defenders out wide, Shriver has been left to roam in open spaces and utilize his deft touch to convert services into scores—only three of Shriver’s goals have been unassisted.

Indeed, Minnesota United has already acutely felt Shriver’s sting this year. When Minnesota last visited Cary on June 22, Shriver dashed the visitor’s fleeting Spring Season title hopes with two goals in the final five minutes to give Carolina a 3-2 victory. Coincidentally, the third RailHawks goal that evening was scored by Floyd Franks, who was traded to Minnesota last month and will make his return to Carolina this Saturday as a member of the opposition.

With a dearth of pure ball strikers to choose from, it appears the RailHawks’ fortunes this Saturday and beyond will continue to rest on Shriver’s bountiful boot.

Other RailHawks notes:

As previously reported via Twitter, Bryan Arguez—the midfielder Minnesota sent to Carolina in the recent trade for Floyd Franks—was mutually released from his RailHawks contract last week for what club officials would only categorize as “personal reasons.” No further details are available at this time.

• On Thursday, Carolina officially acquired midfielder Kenney Walker and defender Bryan Gaul on loan from the LA Galaxy. Oddly, both Walker and Gaul were just loaned to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers four weeks ago, only to be recalled by the Galaxy this week and re-loaned to the RailHawks. Both Gaul and Walker have recent history at WakeMed Soccer Park with the Galaxy, Gaul during their 2012 U.S. Open Cup loss to the RailHawks and Walker as part of this year’s Open Cup loss to Carolina.