By Nicole Caporaso
North Carolina FC would like to thank Kupono Low for his time and immense dedication to the Carolina RailHawks (now North Carolina FC) organization.
Low has been an integral part of the club’s history as he was a member of the inaugural team in 2007. He signed on for his 10th season with the club in 2016, making him the longest tenured player in the organization’s existence.
“The organization really was my life for the last 10 years,” Low said. “The organization has always stuck with me and always had confidence in me to perform whatever I needed to get done on the field. They’ve always been there for me and for that I appreciate a lot.”
Low scored the first Carolina RailHawks goal in franchise history on April 21, 2007 with a 24-yard left-footed blast past Minnesota Thunder goalkeeper, Joe Warren. The defender’s goal helped the RailHawks earn a 1-1 draw at the launch of their inaugural season at SAS Soccer Park. Low would go on to score three more goals during his time in Cary.
“Scoring a goal at any time is awesome, but with it being the first one, it feels even more special,” Low said. “I know the club has changed its name and rebranded, but I’m just happy that I could be a part of that from the beginning.”
With the RailHawks, Low made over 220 appearances as a defensive staple. The defender was named to the NASL’s Best XI in 2011 and was also named NASL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.
Low helped lead the club in its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup successes, as he brought the team to the semifinals in 2007. Low was also a key player for the team’s three consecutive upsets of the L.A. Galaxy in the Open Cup in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
2014’s 1-0 win over the Galaxy in added time was in part thanks to Low, as he played left-back and was assigned to stifling one of the greatest players in USMNT history, Landon Donovan.
A legend amongst the organization, fans have come to fondly know Low as “Mr. RailHawk.” In 2015, Low was honored with a Lonerider Brewing Company craft beer dedicated to his namesake, known as Kupono Captain’s Ale.
Low said two of his favorite memories as “Mr. RailHawk” are scoring that first goal, as well as the unveiling of Kupono Captain’s Ale. However, the most impactful memory he has is the support he received from the organization when he took time away from the game.
“This past season I had to step away from the game and kind of get my life all together towards the end of my career and the club totally 100 percent supported me throughout the time I needed,” Low said. “For them to still be there for me afterwards and for them to still be there for me now, that’s probably going to be my longest-lasting memory – not necessarily the goals and the beer, but the family feeling, the support I’ve always had.”
Low said he would now join the ranks of a group he has always admired – the committed fans of the club. The dedication of fans throughout Low’s 10 years has never gone unnoticed and he believes they are among the best in the country.
“All the fans, right from the get-go, have opened their arms to everybody,” Low said. “I know a lot of them have jobs and then they come to the games on the weekend with banners and with songs memorized and with all these other things, so they do a ton of work outside of their real job to support us. When it comes down to keeping players feel welcomed or really encouraging players to play their best, they do a great job.”
The defender said he is thrilled about his history with the team, as well as North Carolina FC’s progression moving forward.
“I’m happy because everything there was always top-class, was done the right way and not many organizations can say that in the league,” Low said. “I’m happy that the club is still moving forward and is getting better each year. Now it’s still getting better as they bid to join Major League Soccer and it keeps reaching for the highest level possible and the best experience the fans can have. I’m still happy to be a part of it.”
To honor Kupono, no North Carolina FC player will wear number three for the 2017 season. The club wishes Low the absolute best of luck in his future endeavors.