2016: New Faces
Current owner Steve Malik seized the opportunity to transform the club and pursue a vision for the future of soccer in the state of North Carolina.
During a press conference on October 30, 2015, the ambitious local owner said, “Our goal is to take the RailHawks to the highest level through additional investment in marketing, players and staffing. We are excited to lead our community in working together to give the Triangle a world-class soccer team.”
Malik stuck to his word and completely revamped the RailHawks game-day experience with the addition of the Far Post Beer Garden, the Fan Bus, the Duck Donuts Family Fun Zone and Matchday Swoopstakes.
New faces in the front office were matched with the new faces on the field. The RailHawks had a big year with the addition of forwards Omar Bravo and Matt Fondy.
Bravo, the biggest signing in club history, provided senior leadership and immense experience to the team, as he left C.D. Guadalajara as the team’s all-time leading scorer. In 14 games played with the RailHawks, he scored four goals and added one assist.
Fondy supplemented Bravo’s offensive spark with seven goals and two assists of his own, making him the leading-scorer of the season.
In addition, captain Nazmi Albadawi set a modern NASL single-season record with his 10 assists. The midfielder was nominated for the NASL Golden Ball, given to the league’s most valuable player.
Though the RailHawks missed the playoffs again, with a 7W-5D-10L record, they again made an impressive Open Cup run, reaching the fourth round where they lost a tight 1-0 game to the New England Revolution of MLS.
In the third round, the RailHawks eliminated the Charlotte Independence with a 5-0 win that saw Carolina score five extra-time goals in the thrilling match. The score set a US Open Cup record for the most goals scored by a single team in extra time.
West Ham United became the first Premier League team to visit the Triangle region of North Carolina when they came to WakeMed Soccer Park on July 12.
In the exciting 2-2 draw, the RailHawks showed their abilities to keep up with the top-team with an own-goal on West Ham’s end and a goal from Marvin Ceballos in the 67th minute, his first with the RailHawks. The match took place in front of a record 10,125 fans.