CARY, N.C. — The Rowdies got a second-half equalizer from defender Joe Donoho before forward Aaron Wheeler headed in the winning goal in the 84th minute for a 2-1 victory Friday night over the host Carolina RailHawks at WakeMed Soccer Park.
"To be fair, they were probably the better team (Friday), and you expect that out of the home team," Rowdies coach Paul Dalglish said on the team's website. "To come into places like this, you have to defend like lions, which we did, and then you've got to try to take your chances."
Both teams went in with 1-1-2 records. But the teams hardly looked even in the first half. The RailHawks played what coach Martin Rennie called his team's best half of the season "by miles."
But the second half crippled Carolina as the Rowdies found enough cracks.
"To be down 1-0, we've been there a few times, and we've come back," Dalglish said. "We never stop fighting until the end."
Midfielder Jeremy Christie, a New Zealander playing in his final game with the Rowdies before departing to play for his home country in the World Cup, sent a looping free kick from 40 yards out that was headed in by Donoho in the 61st minute.
Wheeler headed in the final goal on an assist from Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe.
"It looked like (Wheeler) was going to cross it five times, the defender bit five times, and then eventually he got the cross in," Dalglish said. "That was a great striker's goal from Aaron."
The RailHawks broke through in the 42nd minute. Matt Watson was taken down from behind in the box by Yendry Diaz after a pass from Gregory Richardson.
After Richardson and team-leading goal scorer Etienne Barbara had a brief argument about which one would take the penalty kick, Richardson put the RailHawks up 1-0.
The Rowdies held off a furious comeback attempt. A Joseph Kabwe shot in the 87th minute prompted a flurry of chances. Cory Elenio nearly tied it, but his shot was steered wide.
"The good is that we actually performed well. We were on top for long spells of the game," Rennie said. "The bad is we gave away bad goals."