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Previewing the competition for 2015: Carolina RailHawks

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina RailHawks may not be flashy, but they've consistently been on of the best clubs in the North American Soccer League since its formation in 2011. Not only have they traditionally been very competitive within the league, but they've made a habit of knocking MLS sides out of the U.S. Open Cup as well.

At the top, the RailHawks have remained stable, with Colin Clarke remaining in charge, as he has been since 2011. He's been busy during the winter months attempting to repair a leaky defense, starting with the signing of Futty Danso to help shore up the back.

Notable additions: Mark Anderson (FTL Strikers), Simone Bracalello (Minnesota United), Futty Danso (Portland Timbers),  Neil Hlavaty (FC Edmonton), Wes Knight (FC Edmonton), Chris Nurse (Fort Lauderdale Strikers), Brian Sylvestre (Harrisburg City Islanders), Blake Wagner (Tampa Bay Rowdies)

Key departures: Jordan Burt, Uriah Bentick, Jun Marques Davidson, Enzo Martinez, Gabe Latigue, Akira Fitzgerald, Danny Barrera, Aaron King, Zack Shilawski

2015 outlook: The RailHawks very quietly strengthened an already decent roster during the winter months, plugging in quite a few payers that have NASL experience. The club's ability to replace the stellar Akira FItzgerald will be the biggest question mark which Clarke faces this season, but the improved depth throughout the squad ought to allow them to get away with a few hiccups in goal.

Carolina has consistently been one of the better squads in the league in each of its four seasons, with points totals that finished first, fourth, second, and finally fifth in the league table. I don't see a first bottom half finish coming in 2015, and while I'm not sure this team has the firepower to finish in the playoff places, they're certainly good enough to challenge for one of those spots very ate into the season.