WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/CARYThe RailHawks deserved to win this gamewhich they did, 2-1and the three points put them back in the thick of things at the top of the USL-1 table. Vancouver are never an easy side to subdue, but on this night the defending champions looked relatively pedestrian. The central midfield trio of Daniel Paladini, Brian Plotkin and Amir Lowery effectively stifled Vancouver’s attack throughout the match. When Paladini was able to find newly signed Gregory Richardson on the left wing positive things happened.

The much-improved RailHawks side showed moments of class during the match, though Plotkin and John Cunliffe were as likely to give the ball away as not. Paladini continues to show why he is Rennie’s first-choice attacking midfielder as he was able to go at defenders with pace and make intelligent passes. Richardson was electric on the ball and was always at the center of the RailHawks attack, so much so that one wonders who they played through before he arrived on the scene. He’s got pace, a light first touch, and his goal (though a bit fortunate as was off a defender and megged the keeper) showed a nose for goal. The 1,000 percent humidity must have reminded him of home in Guyana.

Tonight’s victory was exactly what good teams achieve. Carolina is now one of the top teams in the league. They play good, fundamental soccer even though they are prone to losing their way for stretches, and get the important points at home against solid opposition. If the goals start falling with a bit more frequency there’s evidence to suggest this team could win the league.

Attendance was 4,008. Box score is here.